FAQ: Microsoft previews Office 2013, suite sub plans

How to get the sneak peek, who can run it, why it's big news

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Windows RT, the tablet-centric offshoot of Windows 8 designed for mobile devices powered by ARM processors, will include new Metro-ized versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Dubbed "Office Home and Student 2013 RT" -- a mouthful -- it got little attention Monday as Microsoft instead focused on the desktop suite.

What do I get? Depends on the edition, as usual.

The consumer preview, dubbed "Office 365 Home Premium," includes Access, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word. The other for-business editions add InfoPath and Lync, and access to hosted copies of server-side software including Exchange, Lync and SharePoint.

How much? We don't know. Microsoft's not spilled that information yet.

How long can I use the Preview? For up to 60 days after the real deal launches in your market, says Microsoft.

As that expiration date approaches -- no, Microsoft hasn't set an on-sale timetable -- the preview will ping you about the looming deadline. If you don't pay up for either the standalone single-license Office 2013 or subscribe to one of the Office 365 plans, you will be able to only view or print documents. You won't be able to create new ones, or edit and save existing ones.

Is there a Mac version? Not yet, but there will be.

"The Preview version does not include Mac," says Microsoft on its website. "When available, the full release of Office 365 will be available on Mac computers in addition to PCs."

We noticed a footnote on a Microsoft fact sheet that stated "Office for Mac 2011 included for Macs" that, if we read it right, meant subscribers to Office 365 plans will get the newest Mac office.

We're not sure, but from what Microsoft said later, that sounds right.

Microsoft confirmed that the Mac component of Office 365 will be based on Office for Mac 2011, and also said that an unspecified update will be delivered for Office for Mac 2011 at the time Office 2013 and Office 365 Home Premium debut.

"With this update, Office for Mac licenses can count as part of your Office 365 Home Premium subscription," said a company spokesperson in an email reply to questions.

So if you have a heterogeneous household -- a few Macs, a few PCs, but no more than five -- all can run Office.

"You will also be able to use SkyDrive and/or Office 365 to save and access all your documents from your Mac," the spokesperson added.

How will Microsoft sell Office? Two ways. The first you're familiar with, and has roots stretching back to November 1990: You pay a one-time fee for a boxed copy with a DVD or for a digital download. In return you receive a single license, letting you install and use the suite on one PC. Call that Office 2013.

The second way is brand new. On Monday, Microsoft said it will sell Office as a subscription under its Office 365 label in several new editions, including one for consumers (Home Premium), very small businesses (Small Business Premium), small businesses (ProPlus) and corporations (Enterprise).

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