Microsoft launches Office 365 as a subscription service

Office 365 Home Premium, which includes such familiar programs as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Access, will be offered with a yearly subscription fee. Instead of buying Office flat-out as you did in the past, you will pay a $99.99 annual charge, which buys you automatic software updates, 20GB of extra storage on SkyDrive (Microsoft’s Cloud storage service), 60 Skype world minutes and use of all the Office programs on up to five computers or tablets.

This new apps are relegated to Windows devices specifically, but the service is available for Mac users – initiating a subscription gives you access to the Office 2011 apps which have been around for a while, and, presumably, new versions as they are released. The company continues to offer Office standalone software, as well. There’s a small business edition that costs $150 instead.

This comes almost a year after Adobe launched Creative Cloud, providing access to its Creative Suite applications via a monthly subscription fee, rather than charging a huge sum up front for a software license.

Editor’s note: Explained that the service is available for Macs, which use older software.