Office 2013: renting vs buying

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Office 2013: renting vs buying

Microsoft will be charging US$99.99 per year to rent Office 2013, unless you make a one-off purchase. So which is the better option?

Would you be prepared to switch to a yearly fee to use Microsoft Office, instead of paying once, for a license that lets you use Office for years to come?

That’s the decision you’ll need to make to use Microsoft Office 2013 - which will cost a yearly “subscription” fee for both the home and business versions, or a one-off payment.

Rental versions of Office aren’t new, but up till now, if you were using the “Home” version of Office you might not have been aware of them. Now everyone will have the option of switching to a rental arrangement.

Let’s look at what it will cost and the pros and cons.

So what will it cost me to rent Office?

As expected, the “home” version is the cheapest way to rent. For Office 365 Home Premium (the rental versions of Office 2013 go by the name “Office 365”), you’ll pay US$99.99 a year. There are several business versions, but Microsoft has only released pricing for Office 365 Small Business Premium, which will cost US$149.99 a year.

Microsoft hasn’t clarified whether the Australian pricing will be different. We’ll update this story when we hear more on this.

What will it cost me to make a one-off payment for Office?

The “traditional” Office suite will cost US$139.99 for Office Home & Student 2013. You pay US$219.99 for Office Home & Business and US$399.99 for Office Professional.

We notice Microsoft will offer one year’s free access to the rental version (Office 365 Home Premium) or “the equivalent Office 2013” version, for people who buy Office 2010 or Office for Mac 2011 starting on October 19.

What are the Pros of renting Office 2013?

We highly recommend you read our explanation of all the major changes in Office 2013. They boil down to these major points:

  • Automatic updates. Microsoft’s selling point for renting the new version of Office is that you will install once, then you won’t have to update or patch the software ever again. Behind-the-scenes updates mean you will always have the latest version (while you’re paying, at least).
  • Office on Demand. Need to get to your Office documents but you’re not at your normal computer? You will be able to run a special “streaming” version of Office that doesn’t require you to go through the normal Office install process.
  • More computers. The rental version of Office lets you install on five different computers. The one-off version doesn’t. The business rental versions allow more installations.
  • An extra 20GB. More online storage comes with the Home Premium version than the standalone "traditional" version.

What are the cons of renting Office 2013?

Until we confirm Australian prices, we can’t make any final judgements on prices. It is worth noting, though, that Office prices in Australia have historically been higher than the US dollar price. With that in mind, we imagine cost is going to be the big question for many people.

Let’s look at it this way - what if you upgrade Office every couple of years? Renting the Home & Student version would cost you approximately US$200 after two years.

So what if you were to stick with one-off purchases? This would cost $139.99 now, then let’s suggest a theoretical US$139.99 (and this is a guess) if you were to buy another version in two years from now - a total of US$279.98. This isn’t taking into account possible cheaper upgrade versions, or “Product Key Card” versions as they’re called now, but still, it looks like you’d be better off renting in this scenario.

If you wait three years, the one-off purchase looks a little better - but not by a wide margin. Add to that the fact that you miss out on the benefits of the rental version we mentioned above.

There’s another factor though, and it’s to do with people’s perception of renting software. We’ve already negative comments in forums, arguing, for example, that US$99.99 is too much for students to pay each year. The bigger issue, we think, is getting over the perception that this is somehow a raw deal because you’re renting the software. One question we’ve seen asked is what happens if you stop paying - do you lose access to all your documents?

These are the concerns Microsoft will have to overcome if it’s to win over millions of Office users around the world and convince them to start paying a yearly fee. Plenty of people do it already with anti-virus software, but it’s not something a lot of people are used to yet when it comes to spreadsheets and word processing.

We will say one thing though - Microsoft hasn't gone down the path of moving everyone to “cloud” services (yet). While Office 2013 installs quickly and there are Web versions you can use, the full version, at least, is still something you install on your computer.

Would you be prepared to switch to a US$99.99 yearly payment for Office and why/why not? Add your comment below.

Here is a table comparing the features of some of the Consumer and Small Business versions of Microsoft Office 2013 (source: Microsoft web site)


New Subscriptions



Office 365 Home

Office 365 Small Business Premium

Home & Student

Home & Business


Core Office applications

Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote1

Email, calendars and tasks Microsoft Outlook



Publishing and databases Microsoft Publisher, Access2




Unified communications and forms 

Microsoft Lync, InfoPath





Personalized experience 

Always have your applications, settings and documents accessible when you need them

Easy subscription

Includes ongoing access to version upgrades, multiple device usage and access to multiple languages




Office on multiple devices
Install Microsoft Office on five PCs or Macs and on select mobile devices when available3




Office on Demand

Edit your documents with Office on Demand when you’re away from your PC. Office applications are streamed to your PC4




SkyDrive plus 20 GB of storage

Get additional storage to save documents online for easy access and sharing virtually anywhere with additional storage





Skype world minutes

Find new ways to stay in touch with 60 minutes of Skype calls each month to phones in 40-plus countries5





Business email and calendar

Shared calendars and a 25GB mailbox with protection against viruses and spam





Professional-grade cloud storage

10 GB plus 500 MB per user for easy access to business documents virtually anywhere





High-definition videoconferencing   

Conduct online meetings easily with desktop sharing, including video and audio capabilities6





Business collaboration and website tools

Create company websites, share documents online and stay connected to your team





Number of installs

5 PCs or Macs

5 PCs or Macs

1 PC or Mac7

1 PC or Mac7

1 PC

Licensing model









$149.99 /user/year





1 Not available on Mac

2 PC only

3 Smartphones and tablets added regularly. Availability of Office 365 apps varies by device. Subscription begins at Office 365 account setup.

4 Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating system required, Internet connection required.

5 See for details. Skype account required. Excludes special, premium and nongeographic numbers. Calls to mobiles are for select countries only. Skype available only in select countries.

6 HD video camera required.

7 PC versions 2013; Mac version 2011

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