Microsoft Chimes In on Software Subscriptions

The company says it has no plans to discontinue the packaged version of Office anytime soon.

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Yesterday, Adobe announced that it would henceforth focus its efforts on Creative Cloud — its pay-as-you-go, all-you-can-eat service which incorporates Photoshop, Illustrator and other tools — and would no longer offer meaningful updates to Creative Suite, the conventional boxed-software version of its bundle. I wondered when Microsoft would make a similar move with Office 365, its subscription-service version of Office.

And now Microsoft has responded, in a blog post by the company’s Clint Patterson:

Like Adobe, we think subscription software-as-a-service is the future. The benefits to consumers are huge. Subscribers are always up-to-date. They get the latest and most complete applications. They can use subscriptions across the multitude of devices people use today. Web services like SkyDrive and applications like Skype are also more easily integrated with subscription services, like the new Office 365 Home Premium.

However, unlike Adobe, we think people’s shift from packaged software to subscription services will take time. Within a decade, we think everyone will choose to subscribe because the benefits are undeniable. In the meantime, we are committed to offering choice–premier software sold as a package and powerful services sold as a subscription.

That’s not an iron-clad guarantee that boxed Office will be around until 2023, but it does sound like Microsoft’s plans involve boxed Office being around longer than I expected; I guessed that there might be at most one more conventional upgrade to come.

Patterson also says that since Microsoft released consumer and school versions of Office 365, along with Office 2013, back in January, more than a quarter of consumers who have bough Office have opted for the subscription version. Assuming that Microsoft does indeed offer both software and service versions of Office — and doesn’t take any radical measures to make the boxed version unappealing — it’ll be interesting to see whether Office 365 naturally replaces the boxed edition as the default version over time, as Patterson predicts.