Microsoft is busy working on Windows 10, while also working the next phase of Microsoft Office.

The company recently unveiled new Microsoft Office touch apps, and it said a new version of its desktop suite was also in development. While all that sounds great, many have wondered how that affects Office 365. Well, to be frank, Office 365 isn't actually a different suite of Office apps but rather a brand name for a group of products with service subscriptions.

Confusing, we know. So, in an attempt to simplify things, and to help you decide which version of Office is best for you, including whether you even need an Office 365 subscription, we've explained everything you need to know.

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What is Office 365?

When Microsoft unleashed Office 2013 (the successor to Office 2010) two years ago, it actually launched 12 different editions of the productivity suite, including traditional editions (such as "Home & Student" and "Home & Business") as well as new subscription-based editions available through its Office 365 program.

Microsoft's Office 365 program - at the time - allowed use of all the Office 2013 apps, other Microsoft services, and value-added services (such as 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 Skype minutes per month), but you had to buy a 365 subscription plan in order to use any of those apps and services. The plans were initially aimed at home users.

In October 2014, Microsoft introduced new Office 365 plans. The company said it re-designed the plan setup to better meet the needs of business users. The new plans are called Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business, and Office 365 Business Premium. They are geared toward a range of different business sizes (small, medium, large, etc).

Moving on to the present...Microsoft's Office 365 program currently offers the following subscription-based plans: Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium, Office 365 Home, and Office 365 Personal. Each plan has a different price point and set of features, but we're just going to focus on Home and Personal.

Office 365 Home

Microsoft's Office 365 Home plan costs $9.99 per month (or $99 per year) and is compatible with Windows 7 or later and Mac OS X 10.6. The plan allows up to five users, meaning you'll get a copy of the Office desktop apps for just five PCs and Macs, the Office experience for up to five tablets and five phones, etc. Check out the full list of features below.

  • Full, installed Office 2013 desktop apps for up to 5 PCs and Macs*
  • Full Office experience for up to 5 tablets and 5 phones
  • Offline storage
  • OneDrive online storage up to 1TB for 5 users each
  • Skype (calls to mobile phones) - 60 minutes per month for up to 5 users each
  • Learn more about all the Office 365 plans and features here

Office 365 Personal

Microsoft's Office 365 Personal plan costs $6.99 per month (or $69 per year) and is compatible with Windows 7 or later and Mac OS X 10.6. The plan only allows up to one user, meaning you'll get a copy of the Office desktop apps for just one PC or Mac, the Office experience for one tablet and one phones, etc. Check out the full list of features below.

  • Full, installed Office 2013 desktop apps for just 1 PC or Mac
  • Full, installed Office experience for just 1 tablet and 1 phone
  • Offline storage
  • OneDrive online storage up to 1TB for just 1 users
  • Skype (calls to mobile phones) - 60 minutes per month for just 1 user
  • Learn more about all the Office 365 plans and features here
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What's the difference between Office 2013 apps and the Office experience?

Microsoft Office 2013 includes full, installed desktop versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. The Office experience is a full, installed version of Office 2013 for mobile devices. The list below explains which types of devices get which Office apps under the Office experience.

Microsoft Office experience

  • Windows 8 or higher tablet: Office 2013 (full, installed suite of Office 2013)
  • iPad running iOS 7 or higher: Office for iPad
  • iPhone running iOS 6 or higher: Office for iPhone
  • Android phones running OS 4 or higher: Office Mobile for Android phones
  • Android tablets running KitKat 4.4: Office for Android tablet

The Office experience for iPad, iPhone, Android phones, and Android tablets includes full, touch-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook (as well as OneNote, OneDrive, Lync 2013, Skype, and Yammer). You can learn more about Office for iPad/iPhone here, and you can learn more about Office for Android tablet/Android phone here.

Isn't the Office experience free on iOS and Android devices?

In November 2014, Microsoft made its Office experience for iPad, iPhone, and Android free. That means you no longer need an Office 365 subscription to edit documents or store them in the cloud while on the go. So, while Microsoft advertises that its Office 365 Home and Personal plans come with the Office experience, it's technically free anyway.

In other words: when you pay for an Office 365 subscription, or rather the Home and Personal plans, you're really only getting full, installed versions of Office 2013 for PC and Mac as well as some bonus, value-added services.

What if you don't want Office 365?

If you don't want all the added bonuses and extra services that come with the Office 365 program, such as online storage, you can do a one-time purchase of Office 2013. There are three editions currently available (Home & Student for $139.99, Home & Business for $219.99, and Professional for $399.99). You can learn more about them here.

Microsoft

Microsoft is fully embracing the mobile trend. The company is preparing to launch new Office apps that are not only universal and can work across a range of Windows devices, but they're also completely touch-optimised. Microsoft highlighted some new stuff we can expect from the Office team while unveiling Windows 10 at an event in January.

The new Office touch apps, which will be pre-installed for free on phones and small tablets running Windows 10, will be available to download from the Windows Store later this year. They are - in a nut shell - new and mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. They will work on phones and phablets and come with new features.

More specifically, the new Office touch apps will fit a specific range of screen sizes (smartphones and small tablets). They are designed from the ground up to work on small devices running Windows 10. Microsoft has published several blog posts to describe all the new features in the apps, and we've provided a brief summary of those highlights below.

Features

  • With the new Word app, you can create, review, and mark-up documents, as well as share your work and collaborate with others in real time.
  • There is a new Insights for Office feature in Microsoft Word's Read mode that adds online resources like web references to your reading experience.
  • With the new Excel app, you can create, update, edit, and share spreadsheets like usual (which includes selecting ranges of cells, formatting pie charts, etc).
  • With the new PowerPoint app, you can create, edit, and share slides. There's also something called Ink Tools for real-time annotating of slides.
  • With the new OneNote app, you can capture all your thoughts, ideas, and to-do lists. It also features the classic Office ribbon experience.
  • With Outlook Mail and Outlook Calendar, you can craft emails and plan schedules. They'll also offer Microsoft Word built-in, letting you format text.
  • Outlook will also support touch-based gestures, so you can swipe to read, sort, flag, and archive your mail.

Want to see more features?

Check out our Office touch apps round-up for more. Microsoft also published the following video demonstration of the Office touch apps on a small tablet:

Possibly. As we mentioned earlier, the new Office touch apps will be pre-installed for free on smartphones and small tablets running Windows 10. They will also be available to download from the Windows Store later this year.

You've probably noticed that Office 365 caters to PCs, Macs, Windows 8 or higher tablets, iPhone, iPad, Android phones, and Android tablets. It doesn't include a version of Office 2013 for Windows smartphones or small tablets (aka phablets). The new Office touch apps are meant to fill that void. They'll be universal, touch optimised, and feature-rich.

All that said, Microsoft has hinted that some features won't be available in the new Office touch apps unless you also have an Office 365 subscription. We won't know more until the company launches the apps.

The Vergeoffice-2016

Microsoft said it is "hard at work" on the next release of its Office suite for PC and Mac desktops. It'll be called Office 2016 and is designed for computers with a keyboard and mouse. It'll replace Office 2013.

When will it release?

You can expect Office 2016 to be generally available in the second half of 2015, according to Microsoft.

Is there any other information available?

Not officially.

Microsoft confirmed in January that it would have more to share on Office 2016 in the "coming months". Although Microsoft hasn't revealed features for Office 2016, rumours have claimed that the new software suite will include a darker theme and a Clippy-like helper. It'll still look and feel very similar to Office 2013, though.

We will update this story when Microsoft officially announces more details. Also, when everything is finally available, and after Pocket-lint has tested the products, we'll be able to determine which one is best for specific groups of people.