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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You'll pay a recurring fee -- perhaps monthly, maybe annually -- that gives you the right to install and run Office on up to five devices owned or controlled by you, or in the case of a business, assigned to you.

Office 365 also offers extras geared to each edition's audience: Home Premium, for instance, will come with 20GB of additional in-the-cloud SkyDrive storage space and 60 minutes of Skype calling credit per month.

What editions will be available in the traditional "pay-up-front" model where I download one copy or buy a shrink-wrapped box? Microsoft didn't spell that out at the Monday press conference, but we found a list here.

  • Office Home and Student 2013
  • Office Home and Business 2013
  • Office Professional 2013

Elsewhere, we found mention of another edition, Office Professional Plus 2013.

Can I test drive a preview of the standard, non-365 Office 365? Yes, you can.

IT administrators and others can download what Microsoft calls the Office Professional Plus 2013 Preview starting with the link at the very bottom of this page on TechNet.

Because it uses a standard installer, it must be the only copy of Office on the PC, so you have to first uninstall the existing Office, if there is one.

What about upgrades? Microsoft was mum on upgrade availability, prices or what previous versions will qualify.

Microsoft wants me to subscribe to Office? Yes. Actually the business model is bigger news than the fact that there's a new suite.

Microsoft's taken the idea of Office 365, a subscription service pitched to businesses -- and recently education -- that provides online Office apps along with hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync, and given it a major twist by adding locally-installed Office 2013 applications.

The carrot Microsoft's dangling is the five licenses: If you subscribe to Office 365 Home Premium, for example, you can install the suite on up to five devices, such as a mix of desktops, notebooks and tablets. You can deactivate devices on the fly -- to free up a slot for a new PC, say.

And there are second and third carrots, too. First, all the devices covered by an account automatically sync Office settings, so that the recently accessed document list is consistent across PCs and tablets. And the default document location, SkyDrive, means that you can start a spreadsheet on one PC, save it to SkyDrive, then open it on another computer to finish.

Second, as long as you keep paying the sub fee, you'll receive any and all feature updates and upgrades to Office. It's unclear how frequently Microsoft will offer such updates, and how significant they will be.

Office 365 plans for business allow the same five-installs-per-user. Small Business Premium aims at very small shops with 10 or fewer workers, while ProPlus is for up to 25 employees. Enterprise is for companies who want to cover more than 25 people.

So ... I need to be online to use Office under a 365 subscription plan? No. The Office 2013 applications are not hosted on Microsoft's servers; they're installed on each device you authorize under the five-license limit.

However, you can temporarily work on another machine, say a friend's or at a public PC in a hotel's business center. For that you do need a connection to the Internet.

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