Microsoft has clarified that Mac users will not be able to download and install a copy of Office for Mac 2011 as one of the five licenses allowed by the new Office 365 subscription plans.
The news may make the subscription deals, including Office 365 Home Premium, less attractive to consumers and businesses that have both Macs and Windows PCs.
While Office for Mac 2011 will integrate with Office 365 plans to some extent, users will not be given licenses to the OS X software.
"To clarify, those that have Office for Mac 2011 licenses and install the update, once it's available, will be able to use their Office for Mac 2011 license as one of the 5 devices in the Office Home Premium subscription," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email reply to questions Tuesday.
Computerworld had posed two possible interpretations of earlier comments by Microsoft about how Mac users fit into the plans for the Office 365 subscription deals, which will give consumers five licenses to the new Office 2013 on Windows.
The first scenario: Someone subscribing to Office 365 Home Premium would be able to download, free of charge, Office for Mac 2011 from a Microsoft source, install it on a Mac and run it using one of the five licenses in the plan.
The second: Someone who subscribes to Office 365 Home Premium will have to pay for Office for Mac 2011 in the usual fashion, download and install it. The benefit of associating Office for Mac 2011 with the Office 365 subscription plan would be the integration between the Macs and PCs via SkyDrive and other means.
"The answer is really the latter scenario," said the Microsoft spokesperson.
On Monday, Microsoft had said, "When available, the full release of Office 365 will be available on Mac computers in addition to PCs." A fact sheet for Office 365 Home Premium Preview stated "Office for Mac 2011 included for Macs," which was interpreted by Computerworld as meaning subscribers to Office 365 plans would get the newest Mac office gratis when counted as one of the five allowed licenses.
Instead, consumers and businesses must purchase Office for Mac 2011 separately. The suite's list prices start at $119.99 for a one-license copy of Office for Mac Home & Student 2011, climb to $149.99 for a three-pack and $199.99 for a single-license version of Office for Mac Home & Business 2011, and end at $279.99 with the two-pack of that edition.
Retail prices are usually lower: Amazon.com, for example, currently has the three-license version of Office for Mac Home & Student 2011 at $99.46 and the two-pack of Office for Mac Home & Business 2011 at $212.24.
Before Office for Mac 2011 will integrate with Office 365 sub plans, or a Mac running it can be counted as one of the five allowed devices, it will require an unspecified update, as the Microsoft spokesperson noted. That update will be released when Office 2013 and the various Office 365 pay-as-you-go programs officially debut.
Microsoft has not set a launch date for the new Office on Windows or talked about prices for either the single-license versions or the various Office 365 plans.
It's unclear what benefit owners of Macs -- as well as Windows PCs -- will receive by assigning their separately-purchased copy of Office for Mac 2011 as one of the five allowed devices under an Office 365 subscription program.
In answers to earlier questions, Microsoft said, "You will also be able to use SkyDrive and/or Office 365 to save and access all your documents from your Mac."
Office for Mac users can already save to and retrieve documents from SkyDrive, Microsoft's online storage service, after installing the SkyDrive app.
While Office for Mac 2011 gets little love from Microsoft's new software-by-subscription deals, it's possible the company will up the ante with the next version of the OS X suite. If Microsoft hews to its traditional practice of churning out a new edition every three years, it will likely introduce something called Office for Mac 2014 in the fall of 2013.
Windows users can try the Customer Preview of Office 365 Home Premium, and other plans targeting businesses, by beginning at this portal.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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