Office 365 vs. Office Web Apps

Office Web App

Office Web App

As I ponder over and over what my first article will be for The Redmond Post (Super Excited by the way!), I find myself rolling through many topics related to Microsoft and its vast choices of products and services. Can you guess what the first thing I did once I had the okay? I opened up SkyDrive and went right into the OneNote Web App. I started laying out some thoughts, structuring a new notebook to help me through this journey of writing articles. A few days go by, still pondering what to write about it finally clicks; Let me put together a quick article about Office Web Apps vs. Office 365.

My first thought is simple; I’ve been using Office Web Apps, which is free with a Microsoft account such as SkyDrive or an e-mail, for a couple of years now. Every time I use OWA I think to myself how great this is. I can use Office and I don’t even have to install it on any of my devices. If I walk about and I have a random thought I need to capture I open my OWA OneNote from the phone (Windows Phone of course) and write my thoughts down. This has me thinking about the differences between the OWA and this new paid version, Office 365.

I know the OWA is considered a companion web app to the full Office suite. The feature set is likely much lighter in the OWA. I’m certainly going to have to investigate a bit further. This also has me wondering if the “free” OWA will eventually go away?

This leads me into my second thought. As you probably are aware, Microsoft recently announced Office 365 Home Premium which is a subscription based service. For $99.99 a year you get Microsoft Office on up to 5 devices in your household. This sounds like a fairly decent price for use on 5 devices (~$20 per device) but ask yourself, why would I pay for this if I’m already using it?

I assume with the subscription service you’d be able to download and use the software offline. Which is not bad if you intend to be offline some considerable time with your device. In my case I tend to be fairly connected (maybe too much at times). For some people though, I could see the $99.99 a year price tag be too much. Those who tend to stay on the older products for longer periods of time would probably not jump into this. For these folks you’ll be happy to hear that Microsoft will continue to sell Office 2013 Professional, Home and Student for a single PC at a flat one time price. The fact that Microsoft is still offering the full desktop Office suite proves that for the time being, anyway, that Office 365 is just another option for the consumer. This also allows for a transition period from the standard desktop suite offering to a web based offering (or not). It is unclear if Microsoft is in fact trying to transition completely from a standard desktop offering to only a web based application offering. In my opinion this is a good way to find out if the new business model will work or not.

I wish I had a good Office roadmap document available to review. I’m sure if I did a quick Bing search I could come up with a few roadmap slides but heck let’s roll blind on this final thought. Consider for a moment where the industry has been heading for some time now with web based applications, Microsoft being a big player. Microsoft began this journey in the Office realm with the consumers by offering a free Office web based companion app a few years back. The simple fact that the web based companion was lite and free gave Microsoft the opportunity to build on a core platform that would eventually become Office 365. I am sure there where many lessons learned over the past few years. In my opinion this was a great way to start testing the waters on a core framework. Now as the Office 365 suite services are used by consumers over the next few years Microsoft has some experience built up in supporting and maturing this platform even further. I could see over the next five or so years that the use of the full blown client dwindles as the use of the web versions increases.

Now to sign up for the 30 day trial and do some more investigating. If anyone has some good comparison websites please feel free to share. Cheers.