Microsoft Introduces Work & Play Bundle: Office 365, Xbox Music Pass, Xbox LIVE Gold, Skype Unlimited World for $199

Microsoft has introduced a unique blend of “dual use” products in a single subscription, called Work & Play Bundle. This is a subscription to four of its popular subscriptions services, combined into a single bundle.

The products included are:

  • Office 365 Home (which includes 1TB of OneDrive space today, which is soon going to become unlimited storage, for 5 users)
  • Skype Unlimited World and Skype WiFi
  • Xbox LIVE Gold
  • Xbox Music Pass

As you can see, this is not a “consumer” bundle, nor is it a “business” bundle. In keeping with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s mantra, this is a product made for someone who wants to access productivity tools like Office and OneDrive as well as fun stuff like Xbox gaming and listening to unlimited music on demand. Of course, Skype calling applies naturally to both work and play scenarios.

Of course, being a bundle, the selling point is that the combined price of $199/year is better than buying all those subscriptions individually. Also, if you already subscribe to one or more of these products, adding this bundle will simply extend the subscription to those products by a year. Finally, in terms of actual delivery, each product is delivered as a $50 redemption code so potentially, you could give the stuff you don’t care about to friends and others.

This bundle shows that Microsoft is pushing even harder in the direction of making all their services into a recurring revenue model business. There have long been wishes for Xbox LIVE Gold to include the Xbox Music Pass and now we can see that Microsoft is making it a little bit easier to digest by combining these popular services together.

One thing to note, as is stated in the footnote on the site, the Xbox Music Pass is only for streaming on Xbox and the web. I wonder why they made that restriction, implying it won’t be available on mobile devices or Windows modern Music app.

At $199 per year, it is not a slam dunk choice for consumers to jump to, but there is a lot of value in the bundle if you use even three of the four services included here. Are you interested in this bundle? Would you consider buying it?

Apps for Build Extensions for 400 Million Users


Microsoft has announced several developer opportunities to extend Office 365, specifically around Outlook encompassing mail, contacts and calendar. All those initiatives focus around the business side of Microsoft’s email, contacts and calendaring, until now.

On October 30, Microsoft announced a similar initiative to have developers build apps to extend the consumer side of their email, contacts and calendaring called Apps for This initiative will let developers build extensions that target a potential user base of 400 million.

In a sign of Microsoft “merging” the back-end technologies across business and consumer product lines, they also said that even though this functionality will be available only in Spring 2015, developers can start now by building apps against Outlook Web App. In other words, apps built for Outlook Web App today will work seamlessly with too. This is good news for developers, obviously, because now developers building productivity apps don’t have to worry about enterprise vs consumer our Outlook vs Hotmail/

The APIs for Office 365 are already available, and these apps will use HTML and JavaScript so as consumers, the Apps for will work in any modern browser without the need for plugins. Some documentation for building such apps can be obtained at this MSDN site.

Per Microsoft:

Whenever a customer reads or composes an email or calendar event, your app could be there, helping them get the job done. If you have a great idea for how our customers should interact with their email or calendar, now is the time to make it happen. Not only are these apps simple to build–they use open web technologies such as HTML and Javascript–but you can start building them today.  To learn how to get started, check out Mail apps for Outlook on MSDN and the Office Dev Center.

It should be noted, Google has already built APIs to enable developers build apps against Google Apps which include GMail, Google Contacts and Google Calendar. These APIs also allow access to several other entities in Google Apps.

An example of an Outlook map running Bing Maps contextually:

Office 365 Customers Can Start Using the New Outlook for Mac


If you are an Office 365 customer, there are a lot of benefits you already can avail of, like unlimited storage, always up-to-date desktop software, centralized management of licenses, etc. Now, per the blog post on Office Blogs on October 31, if you are using Mac OS, you can get the new Outlook app for Mac.

It is a surprising release because everyone expected Outlook to be part of the Office suite, and the rumored dates for the new Office for Mac were pointing towards a beta in November with a release in the first half of 2015. It is also a surprise that Outlook was released by itself, perhaps because it was probably the one app with the most complaints about, in Office for Mac 2011.

As for the rest of the suite, Microsoft said that the public preview of Excel for Mac, Word for Mac, PowerPoint for Mac, and curiously, OneNote for Mac will be made available as a public preview in the first half of 2015 and a final release in the second half of 2015. What’s curious about OneNote is that there is already an app in the Mac App Store called OneNote so I am not sure how they are going to distinguish between that app and the potentially “full” OneNote for Mac. This mirrors what Microsoft has on the Windows side, with a “desktop” OneNote and a Universal OneNote app which is available in the Windows Store.

To get the new Outlook:

  • Office 365 Commercial customers can get the new Outlook for Mac by accessing their Office 365 Portal, (Gear icon > Office 365 Settings > Software > Outlook for Mac icon) or visiting the Software page.
  • Office 365 consumer subscribers can get the new Outlook for Mac by going to their My Account page.

Finally we see the benefits of being an Office 365 customer, specifically regarding access to the latest software. Until now, Office 365 has not delivered any desktop software updates which perpetual license holders have not got. Now, a perpetual licensee of Office for Mac will be one version behind, at least for a year.

Microsoft and Adobe: Productivity and Platforms Companies Partner Closely

At Adobe’s Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles on October 6, officials announced a host of updates across their entire product line, and several new creative-focused apps and SDK.

One of the several themes in the conference was Adobe working hard to make their products work across all devices. In making this point, they demonstrated several products using iPhone, iPad and Surface Pro 3. The demo on Surface Pro 3 showed the full Illustrator application, not a scaled down touch app, working very well with touch and stylus while keeping the mouse functionality intact.

In a surprise, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined in the keynote, and in his company, Adobe demonstrated how well their applications worked with touch, vision and speech on a Surface Pro 3. The final demo was on a Perceptive Pixel display where they were able to show how multiple people can physically collaborate and work on a digital product together. This includes multi-hand, multi-touch manipulation of information on the large display.

Nadella’s presence was to drive home the point that Adobe is committed to making their software work on a variety of devices, enabling the creative professionals to be unshackled from the physical hardware they are working on, including 2-in-1 devices like Surface as well as large displays like the Perceptive Pixels. Narayen also made the point that Adobe wants to make sure their software works well by partnering with hardware and software makers and especially working very closely with companies like Microsoft.

Satya Nadells and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe MAX
Satya Nadells and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe MAX

From Microsoft’s perspective, Nadella focused on his four key mantras: mobile-first and cloud-first mentality in building software, along with the core philosophy at Microsoft which is to be the platform maker upon which others build as well as being at the forefront of productivity. For the audience at Adobe MAX, Nadella talked about how creative professionals can build upon the platform created by Adobe with enhanced productivity that a device like Surface Pro 3 provides in the form of native support of touch screen and stylus.

Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Photoshop on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Photoshop on Surface Pro 3


The collaboration between Microsoft and Adobe is very interesting because for the longest time, it seemed like Adobe would be a good acquisition target for Microsoft which builds platforms for developers and IT pros but lack a suite for the creative folks. However, it does seem like the two companies are ok working very closely with each other (building Adobe Flash into Metro Internet Explorer was another unrelated collaboration) rather than be part of one company. Perhaps Microsoft realized that Adobe is the leader across a variety of software catered to creative professionals and it is best to court them and work closely with them.

Finally, in an Oprah moment, Nadella announced that all the attendees at Adobe MAX would be receiving a Surface Pro 3 along with Office 365 which includes 1TB of cloud storage. Surprisingly, this announcement received a standing ovation!

Office 365 Subscriber? Your Terabyte of OneDrive Storage Awaits!

OneDrive 1TB with Office
OneDrive 1TB with Office

On July 16, Microsoft announced via their OneDrive Blog, that the increase in storage that they promised last month are now rolling out.

So, what changed? First of all, if you have OneDrive, your base storage goes up from 7GB to 15GB. You have OneDrive (formerly, SkyDrive) if you have a Microsoft account which you would have if you ever had a hotmail account or an account, a Zune subscription, an Xbox Live account, or if you have a Windows 8 PC and chose to sign in with a Microsoft account. So, Microsoft has effectively more than doubled the free storage that you get with your Microsoft account.

The bigger jump is for Office 365 subscribers. For Office 365 Personal, Home and University subscribers, the alloted storage (in addition to the 7GB free storage) was 20GB. This storage is now bumped up to 1TB. In addition, if you are an Office 365 Home subscriber, each user on the subscription (it could be up to 5 users) will get their storage bumped from 20GB to 1TB. That’s a pretty sweet upgrade.

Finally, if you want to purchase additional storage (regardless of whether you have the free OneDrive account or through Office 365 subscription), the plans are now more inexpensive than earlier. For example, a 100GB plan is now $1.99 per month instead of the earlier $7.49 per month.

So, what do you do with so much inexpensive or free/included storage? How about moving all your music there? I did that, and am pretty happy with it so far. OneDrive has excellent sync clients for Windows 7, Windows 8.x (where it is included in the base installation), Mac OS, iOS, Windows Phone, Android. These apps will allow you to access your files from virtually anywhere, and best of all, keep the dirty work of backing up your critical data out of your plate. Everything is in the cloud and synced to your devices so you don’t have to worry about losing your data. For your digital memories like photos, videos, music and documents, especially if you have Office 365, you won’t have to worry about backup at all. Not only will OneDrive provide you access to your files anywhere and anytime, it will also be a safe offsite copy of your data in case you lose your local disk for whatever reason.

One other note, Office 365’s business and enterprise editions have OneDrive for Business included and those plans’ subscribers also get 1TB storage. Although the two services OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are named similarly, they are not the same on the back end, although Microsoft has made 1TB available to all OneDrive customers, consumer or business. The OneDrive for Business storage upgrade has also started rolling out.

How do you plan to take advantage of the extra storage? My next move, given that I have an Office 365 Home subscription, is to move my photos and videos to OneDrive. It is a much bigger effort so it may take some time for me to plan it out and do it. Plus of course, I have to keep an eye on the bandwidth consumption since my ISP has a cap on how much I use every month. However, with my cloud storage being 1TB, I can now say that I have more storage in the cloud than on any of my PCs!


TheRomit tweet OneDrive
TheRomit tweet OneDrive

New Office 365 Plans Coming For Small Businesses


As part of the evolution of Office 365, the service is going to see three new plans this October, per a post on the Office Blogs on July 9.

The three new plans, catered towards small businesses (from 1 user to 300 users), will eventually replace the existing Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business plans.


Office 365 Small Business Plans
Office 365 Small Business Plans

The new plan details are as follows:

Office 365 Business

This plan is more in line with the Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home in that it is essentially the desktop Office suite available on a subscription basis. Compared to the consumer edition of OneDrive that comes with Office 365 Personal and Home, Office 365 Business will come with the 1TB of OneDrive for Business. The applications included in the desktop suite are Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher. Curiously, no mention of Access.

This plan will cost $8.25 user per month.

Office 365 Business Essentials

This plan includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online and Yammer, but there is no desktop software subscription included. It will also have the 1TB of OneDrive for Business.

This plan will cost $5 per user per month.

Office 365 Business Premium

This is somewhat of a combination of the above two, so it comes with the desktop suite as well as online versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync along with the 1TB of OneDrive for Business.

This plan will cost $12.50 per user per month.

Office 365 Small Business Plans ComparedOffice 365 Small Business Plans Compared
Office 365 Small Business Plans Compared


Some overall benefits include the ceiling of these plans being raised to 300 seats, as well as being able to upgrade to Enterprise plans if the growth of the company goes beyond that number. Additionally, since the new Business Premium plan replaces a plan that currently costs more ($15 per user per month), current customers on that plan will see the reduced cost applied at the next renewal. All of these plans of course unlock the ability to edit documents on Office apps for iPad.

This announcement comes days before the annual Worldwide Partner Conference, with a clear intent to incentivize partners to sell these plans to small businesses, which should be the most likely candidates to move to the cloud given their limited IT resources.

Are you an existing small business Office 365 customer? Do these plans sound interesting to you? Let us know in the comments.


Images courtesy Office Blogs

OneDrive Increases Free Storage and Office 365 Gets 1TB Free

On June 23, Microsoft announced several updates related to its OneDrive consumer-oriented online storage service including bumping up the free storage tier, reducing costs for purchasing storage dramatically, and adding 1TB to Office 365’s non-business plans.

OneDrive 1TB with Office
OneDrive 1TB with Office

Free Storage

While OneDrive (then called SkyDrive) offered 25GB free long time ago, Microsoft changed the free tierto be a then reasonable 7GB around the time of Windows 8 launch. The reasoning then was 7GB was higher than the competition at the time. Of course, as cost of storage has gone down, and as cloud services become more essential for ecosystems, Google and even Apple, have announced very inexpensive plans for their respective online storage services. Now, Microsoft matches some of the recent competitive updates by making the free tier to be 15GB.

Office 365 Personal, Home and University plans join the 1TB party

Microsoft had already announced that Office 365’s business editions would be getting 1TB of included storage (although that would be under OneDrive for Business, which is not the same product as OneDrive). With this announcement, Office 365’s non-business editions, which is Personal, Home and University, also get 1TB of included storage.

This makes Office 365 a pretty fantastic deal if you have the need for desktop Office, or if you want to be able to edit Office documents on the iPad. Not only does Office 365 now come with 1TB of storage, it always included 60 minutes of free Skype worldwide calling and of course desktop version of the Office suite, as well as edit rights for iPad version of the Office apps. If you have more than one person who needs Office, then Office 365 Home is a killer deal @ $99 per year for 5 users.

Office 365 Consumer Plans
Office 365 Consumer Plans

Reduced prices for additional storage options

Of course, as storage costs have gone down, each of the online storage providers have kept cutting their prices. OneDrive will no longer have the 50GB option since the $100GB option is now at $1.99 per month, down from $7.49 per month. An additional 200GB will be $3.99 per month, down from $11.49 per month.

These are great updates to an already useful storage service. As a reminder, OneDrive has a presence on all platforms, making it a truly universal online storage service: Windows 7, Windows 8.x, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac OS. The price changes were not completely unexpected because it is much easier for a larger company with scale, to keep lowering costs to meet the competition’s prices. I wonder what this means to the likes of Dropbox and Box, especially the former, since it has long been the darling of consumers for being so easy to use, sync and share. With OneDrive (and Google Drive and soon, iCloud) being so front-and-center in those various ecosystems, it will be interesting to see how many consumers will decide to switch away from the smaller companies. We shall see.

Edit: An earlier version of this article stated that OneDrive is perhaps the only service with apps across all platforms. Dropbox and Box also have apps across all platforms. Author meant to say, only one among the big ecosystem providers, but the sentence has been modified to refer to OneDrive by itself.

(Images courtesy OneDrive blog and Office Blogs)

Skydrive App Update on iOS Finally Live

On April 3, Mike Torres announced on Windows Blogs that the SkyDrive app for iOS was updated to v3.0 and was available in the iTunes store.

Some of the changes and additions in this update are:

  • Support for iPhone 5 and iPad Mini
  • Updated app icons and user experience
  • Works better with your photos:
    • Download full resolution photos to your iPhone or iPad
    • Control the size of photos you upload and download
    • Photo metadata is retained when you upload to SkyDrive
  • Opening and saving files to SkyDrive works better with other apps on your iOS devices
  • Many other small changes, bug fixes and performance improvements
SkyDrive on iPhone 5
SkyDrive on iPhone 5

Given that the last update to the app was about a year ago, this news is very welcome for those who use SkyDrive.

What was not mentioned in the change log was that the option to buy additional storage on SkyDrive has been removed. This is because as per Apple’s App Store policies, if any app provides such functionality or even a link to their own site, the company has to pay 30% fee to Apple.

In fact, it is widely believed that the app was held back from being released because the negotiations between Microsoft and Apple were not going anywhere. Microsoft was trying to convince Apple that this is a special case and they should not be charged the 30% fee for the functionality. Clearly, Apple did not budge and Microsoft had to remove the link.

However, the silver lining here is now that Microsoft has published the SkyDrive app, we may not be too far away from Office on iOS making its appearance. The generally believed theory among those who watch Microsoft is that Office on iOS (specifically, iPad) is going to be free apps with read-only functionality unless a user has a Office 365 subscription. If they sign in with their Microsoft account tied to the subscription, they will be able to edit the Office files on iPhone and iPad. Given how important the “real” Office is for consumers and enterprises alike, it is natural that Microsoft would not want to pay 30% of the entire Office 365 subscription fee to Apple. Here’s hoping there was a good deal worked out between Cupertino and Redmond so end users like us can finally see Word, Excel, PowerPoint (and wishfully thinking, Outlook) on the iPad.

Do you use SkyDrive? Do you use it on iPhone/iPad? What do you think of the latest update? Let me know!


Image courtesy Microsoft from the Windows Blogs

Office 2013: Office As A Service


On Monday, July 16th, Microsoft made the next version of Office available for public preview. Dubbed Office 365 Preview, it introduces new versions of the desktop apps, new subscription plans in the Office 365 stable of services and most crucially, enables technology to literally serve Office as a service.

One of the features introduced in Office 2010 was “click-to-run” which allowed a customer to click on an installer on the web and install the product on demand. Microsoft has taken that one step further, and improved it in such a way that the “on demand” version of using the software is in fact the default. Of course you can get it fully locally installed, but there are many advantages of running it on demand.

First of all, by running it on demand, you can take advantage of roaming profiles which let a user sign in to any PC and use exactly the products they care about and most importantly, have all their application settings show up automatically.

Secondly, because only the applications you care about are installed, it uses lesser space on the PC. This is a huge benefit these days where thin and light PCs (not to mention, tablets and phones) tend to have smaller SSDs than earlier PCs with large hard drives.

Finally, this feature will come in handy when we get used to changing devices more frequently than we typically do with PCs. Imagine trying to get a new PC in the state you typically want – it involves installing Office and applying various patches. This won’t be needed anymore. You refresh your PC and simply go to your Office 365 account to get the latest version of the applications you care about. A side benefit of this (and perhaps, it is a sign of things to come that the product is actually referred to as Office even though the marketing term will be Office 2013) is that customers will enjoy the latest and the greatest versions of the software any time they use the applications.

All these are user-facing benefits of an on demand Office. There is a huge benefit for Microsoft too. They can finally get hundreds of millions of customers’ credit cards on file, and ensure a steady stream of revenue for Office as opposed to getting a chunk of revenue at once. With the Office Store coming soon, where apps will be available to supplement/enhance Office usage, having those credit cards on file will help in luring developers.

Office is already a huge cash cow for Microsoft, and with all these benefits for users as well as Microsoft with the on demand features, the next version promises to continue its streak.

Live@Edu for 7.5 Million Users–Microsoft’s Biggest Cloud Deployment Ever!

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the governing body for technical education in India as part of India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, has adopted Microsoft Live@edu as one solution amongst many such initiatives with IT majors and Industries. The cloud adoption with an aim to improve technical education and prepare students for the workforce of tomorrow would see deployment over the next three months to more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes throughout India.


Live@edu is a hosted communication and collaboration service that offers email, Microsoft Office Web Apps, instant messaging and storage to AICTE’s more than 7 million students and nearly 500,000 faculty members, for a total reach of 7.5 million users. The numbers clearly make AICTE Microsoft’s largest cloud customer ever. The implementation is managed by Microsoft and a set of Live@edu partners. Full deployment is expected to be complete by summer 2012. In 2010, Microsoft rolled out Live@edu to some 700,000 students in Kentucky, United States which was considered the largest cloud deployment in the US at that time.

“India is seeing rapid economic activity and growth. Developing India’s youth and their skills is going to play an important role in the country’s inclusive growth. The PPP model (public-private partnership) is most essential in running and managing training institutions to address the skill gap most efficiently. I congratulate both AICTE and Microsoft on this significant milestone.”

– Mr. Kapil Sibbal, Union Minister for HRD

Live@edu is the first step in cloud computing for AICTE, as it further plans to deploy Microsoft Office 365 for education when it becomes available later this year. AICTE believes that the cloud deployment will expand students’ access to high-quality technical education and collaboration and is a step in supporting broader educational reforms. In India, both the higher education and IT industry are becoming increasingly vital to the economy.

“Microsoft’s cloud platform will make for a truly progressive ecosystem and contribute to the country’s technical education by providing a better communication and collaboration platform for institutes and students.”

– Dr. S. S. Mantha, Chairman, AICTE

Live@edu is the leading cloud suite for education, with more than 22 million people using the service worldwide (Google’s similar offering has around 14 million users) in more than 10,000 schools in over 130 countries. Live@edu is a no-cost hosted platform for student communication and collaboration. It provides students with the professional tools to prepare them for college or work and is easy to set up, administer, and manage.