Microsoft's moves foreshadow price hike for Mac Office

New Office 365 subscription plans will be tough sell unless company raises prices for Office for Mac 2011, ditches multi-license discounts

Microsoft has announced price increases for its Windows Office suite of as much as 17%, but its plans for Office on the Mac remain a mystery.

The company declined to answer questions about Office for Mac 2011's future pricing and which versions the company will continue to sell.

Although Microsoft will launch the new Office 2013 for Windows users in the coming months -- most signs point to a retail launch in late January or early February 2013 -- it has no immediate plans to significantly upgrade Office for Mac 2011 to synchronize the two editions.

Still, the new price points and editions planned for Office 2013 on Windows -- and importantly, the new Office 365 subscription deals Microsoft will launch -- portray Office for Mac 2011 as out-of-step with the company's strategy.

Currently, Office for Mac 2011 and Office 2010 (the latter for Windows) are priced identically and come in similar editions.

Both versions of the suite are priced at $120 for a one-license copy of Home & Student, the entry-level SKU, or "stock-keeping unit." For $150, customers can purchase a three-license package of Home & Student.

Meanwhile, Home & Business, which includes the Outlook email client, costs $200 for a one-license copy and $250 for a two-license pack.

But Microsoft will be raising prices of both Home & Student and Home & Business on Windows with Office 2013, and dumping the multi-license offers at the same time.

Office Home & Student 2013 will cost $140, a 17% increase, for one license; Office Home & Business 2013 will run $220, a 10% boost, for a single license.

And rather than continue to sell multi-license versions for Windows, Microsoft will steer consumers and small businesses to a pair of Office 365 subscription plans that start at $100 per year for the right to install up to five copies of Office on Windows PCs and Macs.

The problem for Microsoft is that if it does not raise prices of Office for Mac 2011, and ditch the two- and three-license packages, it will have a very tough time convincing Mac owners to swallow the subscription plans.

According to Computerworld's analysis, Office for Mac 2011 current single-license prices are the better buy than an Office 365 subscription over a five-year period if the user wants to equip between one and four Macs with the suite. Only when a consumer needs to install Office on five Macs -- or in some instances, when he or she wants Office on a mix of Windows PCs and Macs -- does Office 365 cost less on a per-license, per-year basis.

The case for Office for Mac 2011 is even stronger if Microsoft retains its three-license Home & Student edition after launching Office 365.

To equip three Macs with Home & Student, consumers fork out just $150, or $50 per license. Over a five-year span -- the average length of time between Office upgrades -- the cost comes to $10 per year, per license.

Mac Office vs Iffuce 13
Current Office for Mac 2011 prices make the upcoming Office 365 subscription plan uneconomical unless customers install all five allowed copies of the suite. (Data: Microsoft.)
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