So the really therapeutic thing about my site for me is that it allows me to work out my Microsoft issues in front of thousands of people.

When I feel frustration, you see it in the articles, when I’m happy it’s there as well.

In this case, it’s a rather minor thing – I had a simple question – what’s the difference between Office 365 and Office 2013?

I thought I had a good idea of what it was but after doing some research online, I was more confused than when I started.

I thought I was the only one who was initially confused about this until I saw this thread. Sheesh.

I decided to ask a few friends in the business and here’s what they had to say:

Tony Bradley, a Principal Analyst from the Bradley Strategy Group:

“For all intents and purposes, there really is no Office 2013. There is from a technical sense, but Microsoft has made it cost prohibitive in order to drive people over to Office 365.

The key thing to remember, though, is that this is a new Office 365. When you subscribe to Office 365, you also get the core desktop software—Office 2013—as a part of the deal. But, instead of being limited to only one machine, you’re licensed to use Office on up to five machines, and instead of being stuck forever with Office 2013, you’ll always have the most current version of the software available as a function of the subscription.

Office 365 Home Premium includes the same suite of applications as Office 2013 Pro, but you can get four years of Office 365 for the cost of a single Office 2013 Pro license. If you factor in five devices vs. one, it would take 20 years to break even on the investment in Office 2013 Pro alone.

So, the bottom line is that there really is no Office 2013. Even if you never plan to use any of the cloud-based elements of Office 365, Microsoft has packaged it in such a way that Office 2013 alone simply doesn’t make sense.”

Wes Miller, Research Vice President at Directions on Microsoft:

For consumers, the main thing to know is that the 2013 version is perpetual (rights are yours to use it forever), and Office 365 is an annual subscription (rights end when the subscription ends).

Much like leasing vs. buying, much comes down to whether the additional use rights, and your ability to always run the latest and greatest versions that come with Office 365 are worth it to you in terms of the need to keep paying.

When Office “2016” comes out, you’ll have to buy it again if you just outright bought Office 2013, but you can have it automagically if you have, and continue to pay for, Office 365.

It’s like Netflix for Office. You can have all the new features as they come along. But if you stop paying, you have to stop watching.

Just when I started thinking I had a handle on this all, I got this from Mary Jo Foley, Super Guru at All About Microsoft:

The only thing that is the same across all the things called Office 365 is they are all sold on a subscription/annuity basis. But Office 365 Home Premium is actually a collection of locally installable software. Office 365 Mid Size Business and Enterprise are not – they are MS-hosted versions of servers (not client software at all).

Ed Bott from the ED Bott Report has the most concise definition on his site:

Office 2013 is the name of the traditional software package that includes individual desktop programs. Office 365 delivers the Office 2013 programs as part of a subscription service that includes online storage, sharing, and syncing via Microsoft cloud services. Office 365 is available in business, consumer, education, and government editions.

When purchased as part of an Office 365 subscription, the Office 2013 programs and associated services are always available in the latest version.

Is Office 365 required to run Office 2013?

No. You will still be able to purchase any Office 2013 edition with a perpetual license that doesn’t require any ongoing subscription fees. This version can be combined with a free Microsoft Account (aka Windows Live account) to allow online document storage and sharing.


1/17/2013 Update:

I got this response from Paul Thurrott from WinSuperSite:

Office 2013 is the name of the Office productivity suite, the successor to Office 2010.

Office 365 is an online subscription service. In its coming update, there are Office 365 versions for both consumers and businesses, and some offer PC- and device-installs of Office 2013 as part of the subscription.

Thanks Paul.

Well between these definitions, I hope it helped.

In addition, here’s a PDF from Microsoft that sheds (just a little bit of) light on the issue.

What about you all out there?

Is this clear to you? Maybe it’s just me?

About the Author

Onuora Amobi is the Founder and VP of Digital Marketing at Learn About The Web Inc. Onuora has more than a decade of information security, project management and management consulting experience. He has specialized in the management and deployment of large scale ERP client/server systems.

In addition to being a former Microsoft MVP and the founder and editor of, he is the CEO of a Pasadena based online marketing education startup - Learn About The Web Inc. ( and The Redmond Cloud (

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  1. It is absolutely confusing!

    Thanks for the help…

  2. Who the hell knows?

    Just another thing that Microsoft have fucked up. Why am I not surprised?

  3. still dont get it!

    • If you understand the difference of leasing/buying a car, then you know the difference between Office 365 and Office 2013.

  4. It is similar to Adobe’s Creative cloud (ie office 365) and Creative Suite (ie Office 2013)!

  5. Yup, Ed Bott summed it up perfectly.
    I’m looking forward to subscribing to Office 365 Home Premium. We have 2 PC and 2 Macs in the house. It’s going to be nice to have them all running the same version of Office for once.

  6. Good subject choice and Ed Bott’s explanation is right on. I’m getting Office 365 because it allows my personal Outlook (emails, contacts, calendar) to sync to all my devices. By uploading my pst file to the Office 365 cloud, my home computer, my Windows 8 phone (and any other device I purchase in the future) will all sync. There is also a webapp version of Outlook (what I have to use at work since the government won’t allow personal laptop) where I’ll see all my email folders, all my rules apply, etc and every email I send or delete will sync on my phone and home computer. Also, I can edit Word and Excel documents online. So for only $100 a year, I’ll get all that syncing, always have the most up-to-date PRO version of Office for 5 computers! Plus my SkyDrive limit goes from the free 7GB to 20GG and I get 60 minutes of Skype calls a month? That’s what I call a bargain!

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