Friday 31 October 2014

Digital: Microsoft pins its hopes on renting Office space

Published 08/02/2013 | 19:40

Which would you prefer? Pay €100 a year or about €300 every three years? That is, more or less, the equation Microsoft has posed with the launch of Office 2013, the newest upgrade to the venerable productivity suite.

Google has been plugging away with its free web-based equivalent to Office for several years, to the point where it's now a highly capable alternative for most users, albeit one that doesn't work too well without internet access.

Microsoft is coming from the opposite direction, slowly trying to incorporate online features into the desktop software that made $16bn in profit last year. Office 13 is where Microsoft meets Google Docs head-on, but with an unusual payment option.

You can go the traditional route and pay up front — about €270 in the case of the standard consumer version that buys you all the usual: Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel.

You need never pay another cent unless you desire whatever Microsoft cooks up next — usually every three years or so.

Microsoft would much prefer you went for the new “rental” option, known as Office 2013 Home Premium. For €100 a year, you gain access to the same software but with the promise of frequent free improvements plus the ability to install on up to five computers (including Macs, but they get only an older version).

Stop paying, however, and your software dies. Your documents will be safe but Office 2013 Home Premium will no longer work.

In many ways, you end up paying the same, particularly if you upgrade religiously every time MS puts out a new release.

Home Premium sweetens the deal beyond the five-PC install with extra online storage and 60 minutes of free Skype calls a month. Nonetheless, Office 13 (whatever flavour) is technically nothing radical, though it does sport a hefty bunch of nice templates.

However, storing your documents in the cloud is hardly new and its rival Google Docs comes with the attractive price tag of “completely free”.

office.microsoft.com

 

GAMES

Dust 514

PS3

***1/2

Freemium has come to define the games industry over the last two years, at least on PC and mobile. Instead of selling your game to punters, you offer them at least a taster, if not the whole shebang, for free then tempt them into spending money on upgrades.

Most players won't spend a bean, but a small percentage pay enough for the business model to be highly profitable.

Console players have been largely indifferent to freemium until recently, but Dust 514 is an ambitious attempt to change all that. A first-person sci-fi shooter with a deep system of upgrades and levelling, Dust is tied into the long-running Eve Online universe, a subscription RPG of baffling complexity.

Scrub away the layers of customisation, faction wars and back-story, though, and you're left with a fairly ordinary shooter that will struggle to engage gamers raised on the incredible polish of Call of Duty or Halo.

Still, it's free to download and the paid upgrades aren't intrusive, so you can make up your own mind.

Earth Defense Force 2014 Portable

PS Vita

***

Six years after the low-budget, low-cost original hit the Xbox 360 with a faintly ludicrous yet inexplicably compelling slice of Japanese-sourced mayhem the Xbox 360 with a faintly ludicrous yet inexplicably compelling slice of Japanese-sourced a faintly ludi mayhem, this PS Vita version isn't so easily excused its flaws.

The entertainment value is as empty and fleeting as a row of cheeseburgers in styrofoam packaging, as you defend a city against giant invading ants.

Somehow, though, EDF possesses a ramshackle charm via its constant stream of upgrades and beyond-kitsch dialogue. Suspend your disbelief and you'll be amused for hours, but few people will see past the ridiculously high arson\] a fai price.

Sing Party

Wii U

**

Fifty songs provide value for money but precious little variety in this uninspired karaoke effort.

With only one microphone provided and a poor effort to integrate Wii controllers, Sing Party doesn't even attempt to reach the heights of its developers' previous musical efforts — such as the rather good DJ Hero.

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