Microsoft has announced Office 2013 and Office 365 pricing. Short term, customers could wind up confused between Microsoft's new desktop and cloud services, The VAR Guy believes. But take a long-term view and you'll see all Microsoft roads ultimately lead to Office 365. Here's why.

Office 2013 is the successor to Office 2010. But Microsoft has confused the discussion just a bit by mixing in chatter about Office 365. Most channel partners know Office 365 supports SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Lync Online and other cloud services. But increasingly, Office 365 also includes desktop productivity capabilities. Here's a sampling of Microsoft's Office suite pricing, subscription services and product lineup:

1. Office 365 Home Premium: One subscription for up to 5 PCs or Macs in a home. Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher and various extensions for SkyDrive (cloud storage) and Skype. Price: $99.99 annually or $8.33 per month. For five users in the same household that's as little as about $20 per user per year, plus the software is continually updated with new features.

2. Office 365 Small Business: The VAR Guy needs to check pricing and capabilities on this.

3. Office 365 Small Business Premium: Designed for businesses with one to 10 employees. Each user gains:Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher plus Lync; plus a boatload of capabilities involving Outlook, online meetings, website hosting, and roaming between five PCs or Macs for each user. Price: $12.50 per user per month ($149.99 billed annually).

4. Traditional Office 2013 Single User Licenses: Prices start at $139.99 for Office Home and Student 2013 (which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote). Office Home and Business 2013 ($219.99) includes all the applications in Home and Student plus Outlook. Office Professional 2013 ($399.99) includes the applications in Home and Business plus Access and Publisher.

Channel Partner Takeaways

Clearly, Microsoft is attempting to move its desktop suite toward subscription pricing. That presents a timely opportunity for VARs and channel partners to educate customers about cloud computing and cloud services options.

The VAR Guy doesn't see much revenue opportunity for VARs focused on Office 2013 within extremely small businesses. But Office 2013 and the basic Office 365 Small Business suites could provide a springboard toward more lucrative opportunities. Namely:
  • Shifting customers to cloud-based applications built atop SharePoint, Lync and more.
  • Exploring which customer applications, if any, you can potentially host in Windows Azure.
Either way, the line between Microsoft Office 2013 and Office 365 is rapidly disappearing. Microsoft wants customers to embrace subscription pricing now, and full-blown cloud suites in the near future. Plan accordingly or get left behind in shrink wrap misery.