Google has just announced that new users of Google Docs will now have to pay for the previously-free service.  The minimum tier will now cost $50/year.

Office 365, which was released in June, 2011 is Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs.  These productivity apps represent part of each company’s ecosystem that includes browsers (Chrome, IE), search engines (Google Search, Bing), desktop OSs (Chrome OS, Windows) and mobile OSs (Android, Windows 8).

However, unlike Google Docs, which was free from its inception, Microsoft decided to offer Office 365 on a subscription basis.  Microsoft was criticized for this at the time, but it now appears that Google have come around to their style of thinking.

Now, new users of Google Apps, which includes 24/7 phone support and a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, will need to pay. Existing Google Apps free accounts remain free, you just can’t create new ones for free.

The cost for new users will be $50 per user per year.  However, Google’s standard web apps like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive will still be available to individuals for free.

In contrast, Microsoft’s cheapest Office 365 offering, the small business product, costs users $6 per month, or $72 a year. This gives the price edge to Google Docs, but doubtless, Microsoft believes the superiority of Office 365 more than compensates for this difference
The good news for Microsoft is that this will make Office 365 more competitive with Google Docs, which so far, has led the market for Cloud-based productivity applications.

Both Google and Microsoft will continue certain plans free to schools and universities.  In Google’s case, they offer Google Apps for Education while Microsoft offers their free A2 plan.

Which of these services, if any, do you use?


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