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Office 365 brings the cloud home

Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, a subscription-based version of the new Office software, debuts today. 

By Matthew Shaer / January 29, 2013

A Microsoft Office logo is shown on display at a Microsoft retail store in San Diego in this file photo from 2012. Microsoft has launched its new Office software, which features constantly updated, online access to documents from a range of devices.

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On Tuesday, Microsoft took the wraps off Office 365 Home Premium, a cloud-heavy and subscription-based version of its popular Office software

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Here's how it works: For $100 a year, or $8.34 a month, Microsoft will allow you to access the Office 365 suite from up to five devices, including tablets, laptops, and PCs. The company will also throw in 20 GB of SkyDrive cloud storage and "60 free Skype world calling minutes per month to call mobile phones, landlines, or PCs around the world," per the Microsoft press release. 

Content across all five devices will be synced, meaning that you can create a Word document on your PC and edit on your tablet, and Microsoft will automatically update the software as new versions become available. (It's worth noting that the Office 365 debuted in 2011, but the early version focused on companies and students. This new iteration, Office 365 Home Premium, takes aim at everyone in between.) 

Daunted by the possibility of forking over a hundred bucks a year for X amount of years? Worry not. You can still get a Traditional Home and Student Office 2013 suite for a one-time fee of $140; a Home and Business package will set you back $220. 

"This is Office reinvented as a consumer cloud service with all the full-featured Office applications people know and love, together with impressive new cloud and social benefits," Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said in a statement.

The new Office has been kicking around since last July, when it debuted in beta form. For the most part, reviews of the software have been positive, with critics singling out the welcome addition of the app store, the varied storage options, and the clean, clear look of the interface. 

"Office 2013 is a top-notch product: fast, intuitive and feature-rich," concludes Dana Wollman of Engadget. "All of the new features work as promised, and are easy to get the hang of. At the same time, since the UI is similar to the previous version, it should be easy to master if you're upgrading from Office 2010." 

As for the subscription model, well, Preston Gralla of Computerworld says you should evaluate how you use Office before signing up. Here's Gralla: 

If you use Office on multiple computers, there's no doubt that the new subscription service could make sense for you. Not only will you save money, but the Web-based tools also make it easy to see at a glance all of your Office files on all of your computers. Given that you also get additional SkyDrive storage and 60 free minutes of Skype, it's a no-brainer. If you only use Office on one or two computers, though, it's not clear whether you'll want to move to a subscription model. You'll pay more money for Office and the extras might not be worth it for you.

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