Like it or hate it, Microsoft Office is the accepted standard office application suite for many companies. Once employees become accustomed to the holy trinity of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, they often decide to use those apps for home use as well. Microsoft today announced global availability of Office 365 Home Premium for Mac and PC, a cloud-based version of the productivity app suite.
Rather than requiring Office to be downloaded to your Mac and then constantly updated with Microsoft's patented blend of security patches and bug fixes, Office 365 Home Premium is accessed from a web browser. Any patches, fixes, or new features are available instantly when you launch one of the apps. One other advantage? Microsoft usually waits three years between new releases of the Office suite; now features and services can be added immediately.
The service can be used on up to five devices per household and is available as a subscription for US$99.99 per year. While it won't currently run on iOS devices, persistent rumors point to a release of Office 365 for iPhone and iPad later this year.
Unlike Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, which only provides Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook,
the cloud suite adds OneNote, Publisher and Access. To store your documents, Microsoft provides 20 GB of SkyDrive cloud storage on top of that available with a free SkyDrive account. If you make Skype international calls, Microsoft adds 60 free minutes per month so you can talk to family, friends or business associates.
Update: Several TUAW readers pointed out that only the standard Office apps are available to Mac users, meaning that they will pay the same subscription fee as PC users but get only about half of the applications. In addition, the Office on Demand feature that streams the full Office 365 apps to any Internet-connected PC (like a business center PC, for example) isn't available to Mac users as it requires Windows 7 or 8.
You don't need to pay up front to try the cloud apps included in Office 365 Home Premium. There's a 30-day trial available for free at Office.com. Of course, if you're allergic to all things from Redmond, you can always use Google Drive's free Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Form and Drawing cloud apps.