1. In the cloud. Microsoft Office 365 is “in the cloud” from two perspectives. First, buying the suite necessarily requires downloading it, which is to say, you can’t buy it on a disc (the exception being in developing countries, where Microsoft will continue to sell discs). Second, the office suite itself is set up to save your documents to the cloud, OneDrive in this case, if you so choose. You do still have the option to save files locally, but the apps integrate tightly with OneDrive.
2. Price and subscription model. Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium is now being sold in the subscription model, and it costs $99 per year for an entire household to install (more details below). Some of the other versions of the suite are sold as a “perpetual” license, meaning one copy of the software is licensed to only one machine, but that license is good for life.
3. License good for five devices. Paying a subscription fee for Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium does have one huge advantage: You can install Office on up to five devices, and these can include both Windows machines and Macs. Microsoft says you’ll be able to install the suite on additional, select mobile devices “when available,” which is a cryptic way of not promising apps for the big two mobile OSes, while still dangling the carrot.
4. Operating systems. You can install Microsoft Office 365 on machines running Windows 7 or 8 (but not Vista or XP). When you install the software on a Mac running OS X (10.5.8 and higher), you’ll actually get Office 2011 (full version), rather than Office 365.
5. Apps included. The Home Premium version of Office includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, OneNote, and Access. OneNote is not included in the Mac version, however.
6. Must install all apps. You cannot customize your installation of Office 365 Home Premium by choosing not to install some of the apps. The whole suite gets installed despite whether you plan to use, say, Microsoft Access or Publisher.
7. Works on touch-screen devices. The new Office is designed to work on touch-screen devices, like tablets and touch-screen laptops running Windows 8. (See my early hands-on first impressions of the suite on the touch-screen device.)
8. Includes 27GB cloud storage. As mentioned, Office 365 was designed to integrate tightly with OneDrive, Microsoft’s answer to Google Drive. Every OneDrive user gets 7GB space free to start, and Home Premium subscribers of Microsoft Office 365 get an additional 20GB of space, giving them a total of 27GB.
9. Free Skype minutes. One neat perk that’s easy to overlook is that Home Premium subscribers get 60 free Skype minutes per month to call landlines in supported countries. Skype-to-Skype calls are always free, but for times when you need to dial an international landline number, you can use your free Office minutes.
10. Additional versions and discounts. Home Premium is just one of several slices of Microsoft Office that’s available. The Office 365 business editions are due to be released on February 27. University students and faculty can also get a big discount for an Office package that’s a little pared down, but much less expensive at only $79 for four years, usable on two devices.