Having announced it last month, Microsoft’s cut-price edition of its Office 365 subscription suite, Office 365 Personal, went on sale yesterday. While it might be tempting to save $30 by purchasing the Personal edition, we think that’s a mistake and you’d be better off with the Home edition. This is why.
Note that this isn’t an argument about whether you should pay for Office in the first place. If you don’t want to spend money on an office suite, there are plenty of free alternatives, from Google Drive to OpenOffice to Office Online. For the sake of this discussion, we’re assuming that you’ve already determined that you need the extra features included in one of Office’s desktop components.
Office 365 Personal costs $89.95 a year. For that, you can install Office 365 on one desktop device (PC or Mac) and one tablet. (Right now, that means an iPad, but Microsoft is working on a version for Android as well.) Effectively, the licence for each device is costing you $45 a year.
Office 365 Home costs $119.95 a year. For that, you can install Office 365 on five desktop devices (PCs or Macs) as well as five tablets. That makes the effective cost per device $12 a year — a much better deal. (Note that we haven’t included mobile phones in the above discussion, since the basic Office client for mobiles, which allows viewing but not editing, is now free for everyone.)
If you’re an impoverished student who only has a single device, then Personal might make sense. But almost everybody will know someone else who they can “gift” one of their five licences to. As soon as you’ve done that, everyone is better off. And if you own multiple machines, the Home deal is much better — you can have the software on your laptop and your desktop for minimal extra cost (something that was never possible with the standalone boxed Office edition).
The Personal edition does look rather like decoy pricing: an option that exists to make a slightly more expensive option look like a better deal. But in this case, the difference seems worth paying — at least to me. What do readers think?