Something strange is going on in the neighborhood. Who you gonna call? Microsoft Busters! Everywhere you look these days what Microsoft used to charge an arm and a leg to license, others are providing for free.
Allow me to point out that Apple has Microsoft covered on the premium end of the computing spectrum because every Mac comes with OS X for free, plus Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for free. Ditto for iPhone and iPad. That’s the equivalent of Microsoft Office and Windows. For free.
At the other end of the scale are Google’s various Chromebook products, $200 to $300 notebooks that run Google’s version of Office with email, calendar, contacts, as well as word processing, spreadsheet, and a few other apps, plus plenty of online storage and the Chrome OS. For free.
Microsoft is feeling the pressure from Apple on one side and Google on the other. How great is that pressure? Microsoft now makes Windows free to notebook and tablet makers who price their products below a certain amount.
To compete with Google and Apple, Microsoft, obscenely late to the mobile revolution despite having a head start (sounds odd, but that’s how it’s worked out), is giving away Office apps for free on mobile devices. The Windows maker has a few dozen free apps on both iOS’s App Store and Google Play for Android.
I took a few classes on business and economics in college but I don’t remember anything quite like Microsoft’s new business model. Free is good for the user, but how does Microsoft make enough money by giving away mobile versions of Office to stay in business?
As it turns out, there’s a stick attached to the carrot. Microsoft also provides low cost or free subscriptions to Office 365, their online storage system in the hopes that enough people will pay to use what they’re giving away for free. I don’t get it, either, but Microsoft isn’t paying me a Pied Piper fee to lead the company into oblivion (that seems to be the direction).
When you examine the alternatives and weight the options, Microsoft Office, whether in a lightweight and free version from Google or Apple, cloud or desktop, or in a clone-like Office desktop from LibreOffice (or other Office clones), the applications that make up an Office suite these days are mostly free.
I pity the poor enterprise customers who still shell out an annual payment to Microsoft for what they can get for free from many different sources.