With the excitement of the Windows 8 launch, it's easy to overlook the fact that a new version of Office is on the way with a bunch of new features, making it possibly the most significant update in the software suite's history. That may seem a bit hyperbolic, but with a new touch-friendly interface that blends well with Windows 8's aesthetic, extensive cloud sync capabilities and, of course, subscription-based pricing with Office 365, Office 2013 is not your parents' Office.
While Office 2013 won't be officially available to consumers until the beginning of 2013, the RTM (release to manufacturer) version is available and so far reviews have begun popping up online. However, there is no final version available just yet, so those hoping to try out a hosted, subscription model will have to wait to see in what ways Office 365 differs from 2013 aside from pricing.
But, as some have noted, the two versions may have more in common than one may assume as Office 2013 apparently sports features which require access to the Office 2013 servers to work. This means that maybe we'll see Office 365 and 2013 blend more and more going forward. There's also the fact that Microsoft (News - Alert) plans to release a number of upgrades to Office over the next year and beyond, and having Office 2013 hook in to Office 365's method of updating makes a lot of sense.
While Office 2013 is no doubt a major update, it is still Office and so most of us will still feel fairly at home with the new version. The real learning curve for both users and enterprises alike has to do more with the variety of Office versions available across 2013 and Office 365’s platforms.
For example, there's an Office 365 Enterprise version which Microsoft has said very little about and a new $79.99 four-year Office 365 University version obviously aimed at students. Standard Office 365 Home Premium, meanwhile, lets up to five people share Office licenses for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher on PCs and Macs; however the situation for Macs is a bit complicated.
Office 365 Small Business Premium includes all that Home Premium offers, plus Lync for $149.99 per year on five machines. There's also just a vanilla Office 365 Small Business version with no pricing yet announced.
While many home users are likely to just stick with the retail box version of Office 2013, the convenience of Office 365 may win many over.
Edited by Jamie Epstein