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Microsoft: Upgrade from Office 2003, but not to Office 2013

When support for the decade-old Office 2003 expires April 8 customers should transition to Office 365, the cloud-based version of the pervasive productivity suite that will never leave users with an upgrade decision.

In the Office Blog the Office 365 team jumps in to recommend that customers go with the added features provided by the service rather than with the software itself that they download to their machines. Customers are then responsible for maintaining it and tapping into upgrades and patches.

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Office 365, by contrast, is automatically updated, patched and re-versioned as part of the service.

It also includes cloud storage of documents to help customers weather crashes, share those documents with others and access them from multiple machines. And a copy Office actually resides on at least one customer machine per account, depending on the particular Office 365 option chosen – just like if an Office license had been purchased and installed.

This follows Microsoft’s push to transition customers from perpetual licenses to services that represent continuing reliable revenue streams.

Office 2003 Professional cost $499 in 2003. This means that customers who bought it then and are still using it have paid about $50 per year for it. Customers who buy Office 365 Home Premium today pay $99 per year for it, which adds up to nearly $1,000 in 10 years, assuming the price stays the same. So the cost over 10 years for Office 365 Home Premium is double.

Buying a perpetual license for Office 2013 Professional costs $399 today, which would come to about $40 per year over 10 years, even less than the per year cost of Office 2003 over the past 10 years.

Clearly these are apples and oranges comparisons. Office 365 Home Premium comes with licenses for five PCs or Macs plus 5 mobile devices and includes the storage and sharing support mentioned above.

Which option is right depends on individual customers and their needs, so they’ll have to crunch their own numbers.

It’s pretty clear, though, which option Microsoft thinks is right for everybody, including Microsoft.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene

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