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Microsoft tweaks Mac Office, makes it rental

Update lets customers tie OS X suite to new Office 365 consumer subscription deal

As expected, Microsoft today updated Office for Mac 2011 to work with the new Office 365 Home Premium software-by-subscription plan the company debuted Tuesday.

The update, dubbed both 14.3 and Service Pack 3 (SP3), includes several fixes to the suite's Outlook and PowerPoint applications, but shipped in large part to add support for Office 365.

"In addition to the application improvements ... Office for Mac 2011 is now available as a subscription offering," Microsoft said in an accompanying support document.

Today's update was no surprise: In August 2012, Microsoft said that Office for Mac 2011 v. 14.3 would be released alongside Office 365, but that the next major upgrade to the suite -- one more in sync with the new Office 2013 for Windows -- would not ship until an unspecified later date.

Version 14.3, for example, does not include new technologies now found in Windows' Office 2013, such as "Click-to-Run," a quick-start installation technology that downloads and installs the basics of Office within minutes; and "Office on Demand," which streams Office to Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs for on-the-fly work at public machines or systems owned by friends.

Those features can't be implemented on the Mac because OS X won't support the technologies, Microsoft said last year.

Instead, version 14.3 of Office 2011 can be counted as part of a Office 365 Home Premium subscription's five allowed licenses.

Office 365 Home Premium, priced at $99.99 annually or $9.99 per month, lets consumers install Office 2013 or Office for Mac 2011 on up to five different household PCs or Macs. The subscription plan, Microsoft's first in a renewed effort to shift customers from "perpetual" software licenses -- those that are paid for once -- to an annuity-like model, also includes an additional 20GB of cloud-based SkyDrive storage and 60 international calling minutes per month using Skype.

When Computerworld logged into a preview Office 365 account from a Mac, however, only the Windows version, Office 2013, was available to install. There was no option to download and install Office for Mac 2011.

Microsoft did not immediately reply to questions about the Office 365 problems for Mac owners.

Perpetually-licensed copies of Office for Mac 2011 remain available and have not changed their pricing: $199.99 for Home & Student and $199.99 for Home & Business. The version of Office for the Mac to be installed from an Office 365 subscription is akin to Home & Business. It includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as the Outlook email client.

Microsoft has declined to comment on when it will ship a revamped Office for Mac. But going by the four-and-a-half-month release lag between Office 2010 (Windows) and Office 2011 (Mac), a new edition for OS X could appear as soon as mid-June.

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 [email protected].

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about applications in Computerworld's Applications Topic Center.


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