Are Software Subscriptions a Good or bad Idea for Consumers?

Simply put, it depends.  Value can be found at the consumer level, but you have to read and understand the EULA (end user license agreement) and if you need to be online before you buy-in.

Software subscriptions work in the enterprise and work for software companies, but may or may not work for consumers. Value for the end user depends on how the vendor licenses the software, and if you have to be connected to the internet in order to use it. Most people won’t care if, in the long run they feel they’re getting some reasonable level of value out of the recurring cost.

Many consumers never read an end user license agreement or EULA. Ever.  In many cases, even software users were required to activate has been installed on more than one PC, regardless of whether additional installs violate the licensing agreement, simply because the software was considered too expensive. Versions of Microsoft Office from Office 95 to Office 2010, fall in this category. Its one of the biggest reasons why MS has opted to switch to a subscription model for future Office sales.

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The key to successful consumer adoption, however, is how the licensing is written.  I have found that most people are honest and will buy software instead of pirate it; but the licensing associated with any particular title is often very confusing.  Many people have more than one computing device; and will want to use software they purchase where ever and with whatever they’re computing with.  As long as the licensing allows them to install it where they need it, and the subscription costs aren’t too high; and/or don’t exceed what a consumer would pay for the software at retail, then I don’t see why a user find a subscription model acceptable. However, where and how the software is installed may also be an issue.

My biggest concern is where and how the software is used.  Subscriptions for some software may require an online connection to a subscription validation server in order for the software to work.  If I HAVE to be online every time I want to use the software that may be a problem. Internet access and mobile broadband are in a lot of places, but aren’t everywhere. If I want to use it someplace where I don’t have a connection and the software won’t start, then the subscription model is broken. The cloud isn’t everywhere, and I may not be everywhere the cloud is. Software vendors moving to a subscription sales model need to address this in some way to insure that I can use what I’ve paid for, even when I’m disconnected.

I also want the software installed locally and don’t want to HAVE to use an online version like Google Apps or Office 356 Online, again, for the same reasons. I don’t want to HAVE to be tied to the cloud or an always on network connection in order to be able to use something I’ve purchased. Once mobile broadband is ubiquitous, this may be a non-issue, but until then, it may be an issue for some, especially in areas where connectivity is spotty.

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Microsoft Office 2013 Home Premium Presentation

The best sold product by Microsoft is ready to be delivered to the market with a new face and a new modern feature: the Cloud integration. Steve Ballmer was eager to unveil this product as fast as possible, preparing the media and the new customers to accept it as part of the Windows 8 “revolution”.

Microsoft Office 2013 Home Premium, which is part of the Microsoft Office 365 family, is already available for free as a preview version, which will expire on its official release. All you have to do to get it and make it run, is to download the installer from here, then sign-in into Office 365 Home Premium account with your Windows Live credentials. A new online UI will appear from where you can open your applications, documents, and custom settings on any PC (PC running Windows 7 or 8 and Internet connection required).

The package offers new full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. In case you are already using Windows 8 Release Preview, these apps are fully integrated into the interface with lots of extra add-ons on Windows Store. You will have 25 GB of free online space on SkyDrive to store your documents for easy access and sharing. When the Preview version will expire, the free access will be gone.

The full version Office 365 Home Premium will come also with full Skype integration, additional 20 GB of SkyDrive online storage and Mac compatibility. All these will be available on up to five PC’s or mobile devices. It is not clear what prices will Microsoft ask for their four cloud subscription plans: Home, Small Business, ProPlus and Enterprise, but all these will be available only if you pay a monthly fee.

Stay tuned, for our full preview of Microsoft Office 2013.

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Office 15 Speculation

Okokokok…We may as well go here – With Windows 8 Consumer Preview due 29-Feb-12, and all the Office on a tablet talk, we may as well get out our Office 15 crystal balls and see what we can see…

My good friend and former co-worker, Paul Thurrott is probably one of the very few people I know of who has a good handle on what’s going on inside Redmond’s walled garden (the other is MaryJo Foley…)  When I’ve got a question or two that no one else seems to know the answer to related to Microsoft and what they’re thinking, Paul’s usually the one I ask. His Windows Super Site is probably one of the best resources on the internet.

Windows 8’s Consumer Preview is due out on 29-Feb-12.  Office 15 Technical Preview (due out to their technical beta team, or by invite only) will be released shortly after that.  Paul’s pulled together some interesting screenshots on both.

From what I know from my own work in the industry and from the contacts I do have, Office 15 is going to be tablet, or more appropriately put, more touch-screen-centric than previous versions of Office.  Look for a cleaner, less cluttered interface.  The final disposition of the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar are undecided; or at the very least, I couldn’t find any corroborating information regarding their fate.

I’ve heard a lot of information regarding Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. I have heard ZILCH about any of the other suite components. Most notably absent is any real news regarding Outlook 15. Which brings me to the screen shots on Paul’s site…

You can clearly see full sized screen shots of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.  The interfaces that are shown are clean and provide a great deal of space in which to work.  However, without any real understanding of where the Ribbon is, how the individual app menus are structured and whether or not they’ve moved and reorganized everything, it’s difficult to say what level of improvement or value-add they offer over Office 2010.  The screens that Paul has displayed also linked to any larger shots or screen renders. We also don’t know if we’re looking at the WOA version of Office 15 or the full desktop client.

I was hoping to have a bit more, here kids; but solid information on what to expect with Office 15 is scarce.  I’m hoping that my TechNet subscription will get me access to the Tech Preview bits so that I can take a closer look at the software. If I can get a look at it, I’m certain I’ll develop an opinion to express…

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