For the past year or so, Microsoft has been partnering with PC makers to offer free 1-year subscriptions to Office 365 Personal to customers when they buy a small laptop or tablet. Since a subscription is worth $70 and some Windows PCs have actually been available for around the price or less, in some cases you may have actually been able to kind of pay for Office and get a free Windows tablet at the same time.

Now that’s ending.

That’s kind of a good thing and kind of a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

word mobile

About that Office 365 Personal deal

On the one hand, a free year of Office 365 Personal was a pretty nice thing to have. Not only does Office 365 Personal let you download and install the full version of Microsoft Office on one PC, one tablet, and one mobile device, but it also includes 1TB of cloud storage with Microsoft OneDrive.

On the other hand, when the year is up, you either need to start paying or stop using the service.

That’s not necessarily true with Microsoft’s new version of Office. Well, one of its new versions… for some computers.

What you get with a new PC now

While Microsoft continues to offer a full desktop version of Office, this year the company also released a suite of Office Universal apps at about the same time as it launched Windows 10. These are versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other programs designed to run across a range of devices including phones, tablets, and notebook or desktop PCs.

These new apps have a simpler, touch-friendly user interface and they’re available from the Windows Store. They’ll come pre-installed on Windows phones and small tablets (with 10.1 inch or smaller screens), and they’re 100% free to use on those devices.

But if you want to make full use of the new Office Universal apps on a larger tablet or notebook, you’ll need to pony up some money for an Office 365 subscription, because while you can download the free apps and use them to view documents, you’ll need a subscription to edit or save files.

So what other alternatives are there?

Not satisfied with the Office Universal apps? There are still a few other options.

First, you could still buy a cheap computer running Windows 8.1. Unlike systems that ship with Windows 10, small tablets and notebooks that come with Windows 8.1 will continue to include a free 1-year subscription to Office 365 Personal for a while.

Second, you could buy a Microsoft Surface 3. That’ll still come with a free 1-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, even though it now ships with Windows 10.

Third, you could just use the free web-based versions of Office, called Office Online. These web apps may not have all the bells and whistles available from the commercial version of Office. But they offer all the basic features most people need and you don’t have to worry about whether they’ll be able to recognize you MS Office files: they will.

Fourth, you could use alternate office apps including web apps such as Google Docs or desktop apps including LibreOffice, OpenOffice, or Gnumeric and AbiWord.

Power users who have been with Office for years often point to all the things those alternate office suites can’t do. But for most casual users, they offer plenty of power.

Update: It looks like Office 365 free subscriptions might not be dead just yet. Some new low-cost Windows 10 laptops like the $190 Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 still come with a free 1-year subscription.

via Neowin

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25 replies on “Say goodbye to free Office 365 Personal subscriptions with Windows PCs”

  1. Tell me what happen after one year of subscription for Office 365? Do I have to pay every monthly? or Office 365 will disappear….?

  2. Comment to the writer: “On the other hand, when the year is up, you either need to stop paying or stop using the service.” The correct statement should be “…start paying or stop using…”

    Liked the article.

  3. If your a T-Mobile subscriber the cloud storage is pretty nice since xbox music is part of the music freedom plan. Although they should include unlimited skype us calls..

  4. simply said, compared to a full fledged office version all these for free versions on whatever device they were provided with by MS were and are some sort of crippleware or annoying adware. meaning they crippled the original documents.
    either one needs only more or less basic office features – one might be better of with al lot of freely available software, or one needs professional solutions where one will have to decide to pay microsoft the deeds or build on free opensource software suites and their habitat of extensions and support. but almost 99% of general everyday users can do without microsoft or google stuff.

  5. I’ve never cashed in on the 1-year subscriptions for Office 365 that came with two notebooks I bought within the last year. For me personally, I really don’t need the more advanced features of Office 365 beyond the free touch-friendly Windows app versions of the Office apps, or the free online versions of the Office applications (i.e. Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online).

    I think we should credit Google for this, for forcing Microsoft to release free versions of their Office programs, due to Google’s Drive suite of office web apps. They have been more than “good enough” for the average user, and that has forced Microsoft to offer free “good enough” versions of their Office applications.

  6. A normal retail price of $70 does not mean the product is “worth $70”.

  7. Seems fine to me, I much preferred the free version office I got on my t100, even though it’s tied to that device, I can use it for the lifetime of that device, whilst a free year of office 365 would’ve been useless to me as I don’t want to start paying after the year is up.

  8. I would say those third party alternatives are typically more than enough even for power users. You often see them discussed as here with the qualification that they are good enough for ‘casual users’. I don’t think that is really accurate. Many of them are very powerful. It’s just that if you do certain things or need to exchange files with other businesses that use MS Office then it might not inter-operate well enough depending on the features you use. The same for school.
    If you are just running your own business then almost nobody needs to be paying for MS Office.

  9. I’m guessing most people (consumers) will just use Google docs since it covers what most people need. As for businesses, I don’t know.

    1. That’s the flaw in Microsoft’s 365 subscription plans. Most consumers don’t have that much need for word processors, spreadsheets, etc., so they will look for free options. $70 a year is not going to be attractive. $115 for a static version of the Office program (a DVD) that would last basically forever might be. But periodic payments, no.

      1. Many of those consumers wouldn’t be buying MS Office anyway, these days, but I think you underestimate the attractiveness of a subscription service and the promise of always having the latest and greatest version at your disposal.

        Yes, I know it’s more expensive in the long run, but the cheap initial payment makes it easier for people to get on board, and they don’t think about the long term additional expense.

    2. Depends on the business but generally Office is where MS still makes the most money and that’s mostly due to the large number of businesses that rely on it.

      Mind, 365 as a service provides a fair number of advantages like being able to install Office on multiple PC’s with each account, along with 1-2 mobile devices. Like Windows 10, Office 365 is also continuously updated and means you’ll get access to new features as soon as they’re ready instead of waiting for the next static release.

      Along with advance collaborative features, sync across multiple devices and multiple users, a nice chunk of cloud storage is included, ability to work across multiple devices, being sure everyone in the company is working with the same version of Office, etc.

      Not to mention complete offering of solutions including desktop productivity applications (Office Web Apps), online portals, extranets, external web site, instant messaging, voice and video conferencing, Web conferencing, e-mail, voice mail and unified messaging, usually seamless integration with other Microsoft programs, Convert Capex into Opex, Business-class service including IT admin phone support,
      financially-backed 99.9% uptime guarentee, geo-redundent data centers,
      disaster recovery, robust security, privacy controls and standards, and Single sign on – running in the system tray of each user’s machine, storing their password to avoid constant sign in…

      Many of those are usually things companies would have to pay extra for or contract a separate company to provide but it’s all included with the 365 subscription and companies can itemize costs per employee and the employee themselves usually don’t have to worry about the costs and get all of the above just for working for the company…

      While just features like Outlook, which the regular Office release may not include, can be a deal breaker for some companies that rely on it…

      It’s just for regular people who don’t need most of those advantages, especially as they have to pay for it themselves, that it’s usually not worth it… but Office 2016 should be out by either close to end of this year or early next year anyway. So we won’t only have a choice between Universal Office Apps and the 365 Office service… and of course there are still all the alternatives…

      1. the office suite thing has been beat on for more than 30 years. wordstar and appleworks were pretty powerful in their day. 20 years of the modern office suite. the time of paying for this stuff should have been lon gone by now.

        1. For regular consumers, they practically are and that’s why there are plenty of alternatives to choose from but for businesses is another matter… They can need more than an okay office suite, and meeting modern business needs tend to go beyond just the apps themselves now.

          So it’s not like nothing has changed over the years and like most things in the market, we still have choices and it doesn’t really matter if this choice doesn’t meet your needs as long as there are other choices…

        2. I don’t remember Office suites being common, popular or even available for 30 years. I remember them starting sometime after Windows 3.0 (1990). Before then the cost of just a word processing program like Word or WordPerfect would be well over $200. Slowly, just as with movie media (VHS tapes) they discovered they could make much more money selling for a much lower price, and grouping apps into suites was part of that realization.

          With programs now often being downloaded the marginal cost of each sale is very low, but that does not mean it should be free. Free programs may work for many uses, but they also have their limitations, and in business that is primarily not being a standard that potential employees would know.

        3. Office suites are being rolled into bigger solutions, like Google Apps for Business, where you get all of their cloud based services, including Docs, Gmail, Calendar, etc. for a single per-user price. Basically it’s outsourcing your office IT to Google or Microsoft.

  10. I think the third option (free versions of Word, etc.) doesn’t allow you to edit and save without a subscription. At least that’s what just happened when I tried it on my Windows 10 PC. Not sure about it on Android.

    1. For the online Word, aside from being overly simple and a bit clunky to use, the online Word allows you to edit and save… The options are just limited…

      You can download and save as a docx file, or PDF file (may not always work, depending on what PDF app you’re using)…

      You can save to your OneDrive account, and/or share a link to it that you can send to someone… Dropbox account can also be used…

      Or, if you have a compatible version of Word on your system then you can choose to edit a file you already have in your OneDrive account, or a link to one was sent to you, on your desktop…

      But that’s about it and the word processing features are pretty basic…

      You’d mainly only need a 365 subscription to make it easy to switch between multiple devices and do more advance collaborations… along with the other benefits of a subscription, if they apply to you…

  11. After many years of avoiding buying a recent version of Office, an employment agency wanted an ASAP response to a Word application with fillable fields that would not work with the usual free alternatives. Went out and got Office Home & Student 2013; installed it on the Asus X205TA. Couldn’t finish the form anyway because it wanted lots of confidential client information. Won’t be getting much (if any) value out of that $115. Businesses that generate application forms that require paid software like Office are stupid and/or rude.

  12. The Office Experience sounds like one of those carnival “Fun House” things where parts of it have you in the dark with things popping out at you or bright lights flashing in your face, other parts have the floor moving up and down or side to side, other parts expose you to the outdoors but from behind bars… and you exit pretty unsatisfied in general. Yep, everything post-2003 has taking us from a Ribbon to a “ribbing.” Clearly Microsoft’s Office Team is just laughing at users and poking at them with a sharp stick.

    1. 2007 was the first decent version, IMHO. I repeatedly tried other versions, and they sucked–very un-intuitive.

      1. Try LibreOffice they are using the right panel thanks to IBM gifted Symphony UI which is very ergonomic as its on the right side. I love it. Try it even if you have MS Office. Its free easy to use & plays better with MSO as time goes by (latest versions).

      2. Agreed. I use newer versions when forced to (company policy or compatibility reasons), but default to 2007 personally. It’s the only technologically just-about-working, but also UX usable version. I wish they still sold licenses to it.

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