* Rolls out online service for home users
* Subscription costs $100 per year
* No word yet on Office for iPad
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE, Jan 29 Microsoft Corp launched
its new Office software on Tuesday, featuring constantly
updated, online access to documents from a range of devices as
the world's largest software company attempts to tailor its most
profitable product to a mobile generation.
The new Office suite of applications - including desktop
staples Outlook email, Excel charts, Word and PowerPoint - marks
the first overhaul since 2010 and aims to beat back growing
competition from Google Inc's free online apps.
"The notion of an always up-to-date streaming version of
Office comes directly from how people are using devices today,"
said Kurt DelBene, head of Microsoft's Office unit, in a phone
interview. "You really want all your content to roam with you.
We see that as an opportunity to deliver what customers are
The consumer-focused version of the new software, called
Office 365 Home Premium, launched on Tuesday. After downloading
the basic programs online, users can access the latest versions
of all Office applications from up to five devices on a
subscription basis for $100 a year.
The software will be updated online, marking a change from
the past where users had to wait years for upgrades to installed
The new Office largely adopts the look of last year's
Windows 8, with a cleaner, more modern-looking design and
includes touch-screen capability.
The 'ribbons' showing commands in Word and Excel are mostly
unchanged. For the first time the package includes online
calling and video service Skype, which Microsoft bought in 2011.
Users' work can be stored in remote data centers - known as
'the cloud' - and the latest version of a document accessed from
any licensed device with a browser that the user wants to work
Two and a half years in the making, the new Office is
designed to counter the growing popularity of Google Apps, a
collection of online-only, Office-style applications Google
provides free for home users and sells to businesses for $50 per
user per year.
Microsoft is hoping its move into online services, alongside
its new Surface tablets, pushes it back into the forefront of
mobile computing, which has been led by Google's Android
software and Apple's combination of slick hardware and apps.
"Today's launch of Office 365 Home Premium marks the next
big step in Microsoft's transformation to a devices and services
business," said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive, in a
The new Office will run natively on Microsoft's own Surface
tablets - both the 'RT' and Pro versions running on ARM Holdings
and Intel Corp chips respectively - but it will
not run natively on Apple's iPad, disappointing some iPad users
who are also Office fans.
"We have not said that we will do rich client software on
the iPad at this point," said DelBene, although he did not rule
out producing such software in the future. "We've been very
logical in our approach. I'm pleased with the software we have
delivered for the iPad to date," he said.
Microsoft's SkyDrive online storage system and its OneNote
note-taking software are available as iPad apps and iPad users
can use limited Web versions of some Office applications.
The iPad issue has been a long-time quandary for Microsoft,
which might gain more mobile users by making Office available on
the iPad, but also removes a major incentive to buying its own
competing Surface tablet.
The rollout of Office 365 for corporations, Microsoft's core
market, has already started, but the new product will not be
officially launched until Feb. 27. The new Office applications
have been available to large volume business customers since
Microsoft estimates that 1 billion people worldwide use some
part of Office and the unit that produces Office is Microsoft's
most profitable, edging out the flagship Windows division for
the last few years. It now accounts for more than half of
Microsoft's overall profit.
Sales dipped last quarter as consumers held off in
anticipation of the new Office, but analysts expects sales to
ramp up again this quarter.
"Microsoft has been criticized not only for pricing, but
also for not innovating Office quickly and being slow to respond
to the move to the Web or to mobile," said Michael Silver, an
analyst at tech research firm Gartner. "Office 2013 addresses
some of the criticisms, but Microsoft still has the power to
maintain its pricing levels."