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Four reasons you don't need the new Microsoft Office

Sure, there are some positive aspects to the new suite/service, but many small businesses can steer clear for now. Here's why.

As you've no doubt heard by now, Microsoft Office 2013 has arrived. So has Microsoft Office 365. Some would argue that the latter is the better deal, but I'm here to tell you don't need either one.

Office, of course, is the software suite that drives the business world. Most small shops rely on it for its core-three apps: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. With that in mind, here are four reasons you don't need the new Office:

1. A  new interface means new learning

Once again, Microsoft has made fairly significant changes to Office's interface. Many of them are cosmetic (the Ribbon, for example, has been robbed of most of its color and all its depth), but there are also some changes to the way the suite operates.

That's not necessarily a bad thing (there's less clutter), but it does present a learning curve--and the last thing you need is to spend time and money retraining yourself and/or your employees to use a new Office.

2. Upgrades can be a hassle

As PC World's Yardena Arar noted in her hands-on impressions of Office 2013, you can run into trouble when dealing with the 32- and 64-bit versions of the suite: "Microsoft says an Office 365 license can cover a mix of 32- and 64-bit installations, but if you're upgrading from Office 2010, you cannot switch from the version of that installation. In other words, you can't upgrade the 32-bit version of Office 2010 to the 64-bit version of Office 365 and vice versa."

Why? It seems fairly ridiculous Microsoft can't accommodate customers who are currently running 32-bit Office and want the 64-bit version. But there you go.

3. Still no Android or iOS versions

Although Office 365 supports mobile devices, it supports only Windows-powered mobile devices. That means you can't get native Word, Excel, and the like on, say, your Android tablet or iPad. That option might provide mobile workers with considerable incentive to upgrade, but until Microsoft sees fit to offer it (and that's still an "if" at this point), there's no mobile advantage in Office 2013.

4. There are cheap and free alternatives

Perhaps the biggest reason of all to steer clear of Office 2013? Price. Although Microsoft now offers a compelling subscription model, the fact is you can get a capable office suite for a lot less--or even for nothing.

Indeed, as PC World's Katherine Noyes recently reported, there are no fewer than five viable open-source Office 2013 alternatives that cost zero dollars. Will they give you all the features of Office 2013? Nope. Will they provide perhaps 90-100 percent of what most businesses need? Yep. And, heck, if you're into the whole cloud-sync thing, don't overlook options like Google Docs and Zoho Docs. (They're free as well.)

What are your thoughts on Office 2013? Can your business live without it? Or do you think Microsoft has crafted its most compelling office suite yet, and hang the hassles?

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