Microsoft hasn't given consumers much reason to renew Office 365

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In just a few days, Microsoft will hit an important milestone -- the one year anniversary of the launch of Office 365 Home Premium.

On January 29, 2013, Microsoft began offering Office to individual users on a subscription basis. It was also the first time that the cloud-based version of Office was offered to individuals.

Since most people will have signed up for the annual $100 subscription -- it’s a better deal than paying monthly -- many are now starting to see a banner across the top of their Office apps suggesting that they renew their subscription or risk an interruption to their service.

For people who already have Office 2010, it’s a pretty easy choice -- there isn’t a good reason to renew your Office 365 subscription. Revert to Office 2010 and wait and see if Microsoft adds any must-have features to Office 365. At that time, you can start subscribing.  

When Microsoft launched Office 365 Home Premium, it said that it would deliver new features and services to subscribers as soon as they were ready, eliminating the need for users to wait for the next version of the software to get the new features.

However, in the year that it’s been available, Microsoft hasn’t added anything notable to Office 365. That makes it hard to see the benefit of using Office 365 instead of Office 2010.

Office 2010 and Office 365 have a slightly different UI. But having used both, I can’t think of any features that I’d miss reverting to Office 2010.

It takes a bit of work to set up, but Office 2010 nicely integrates with SkyDrive, where users can store all of their files, just like while using Office 365. Also, anyone can use Office Web Apps to get online access to files and 7 GB of free storage on SkyDrive is available to anyone.

Office 365 offers the benefit of access to On Demand, a full featured version of Office apps that runs online. It’s much nicer than Office Web Apps but most people won’t have that many occasions to need a full featured online version of Office.

One benefit to being an Office 365 subscriber is the availability of iOS and Android apps. But there are many superior apps, often free, that let users read and edit Office files on smartphones. It’s not worth $100 a year just for Microsoft’s stripped down iOS and Android apps.

There may be other benefits to Office 365 but none that I use that are worth $100 a year.

If you don’t have Office 2010, it’s a tougher proposition. It probably makes sense to keep paying for the subscription. The alternative is to pay $220 for the software version of Office 2013 (that’s the price for Home and Business, which includes Outlook) and gamble that Microsoft won’t add new features to Office 365 that you must have in the next couple of years.

For businesses, it’s a different equation. Office 365 comes with many benefits, not least of which is that IT doesn’t have to maintain and upgrade the software for end users. But for personal devices, it doesn’t make sense -- yet -- to pay for an Office 365 subscription.

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