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Microsoft pushes subscription model for Office 2013

Available for download beginning today, Office 2013 comes in a wide variety of versions. But Microsoft is hoping that you'll skip the one-time fee for a subscription model that delivers lots of updates to come.

Choose from a number of premade Word templates in Office 2013.
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

After existing in preview form since last summer, Office 2013, the next version of Microsoft's productivity software, is now available for download.

More than a few versions of the software are available, but the basic story is that individuals can buy Office Home and Student 2013 with all the familiar apps like Word and Excel for a one-time fee of $139. Yet, since this stand-alone package won't entitle you to any subsequent upgrades, Microsoft would rather that you choose a pricier and more complete subscription model for $99 per year that delivers the various updates over the coming months and years.

Yes, it's a lot more money, and Microsoft accomplishes its goal of keeping you as a customer. But in my review of the software, I found that the refined interface, new features, and familiar apps are worth the even the yearly investment. Even better, the subscription will let you download the software on up to five machines.

I also realize that the seemingly endless versions are confusing. I explain the basics in my review and ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley goes into further detail here. Just know that on the whole, the stand-alone and subscription models will deliver the same features from the start. It's just that as Microsoft expands those features in the future, only users with a subscription will be entitled to them.

Microsoft also announced today the cloud-connected Microsoft Office Home and Business, though you won't be able to snatch it up until February 27. You can get it for a one-time fee of $219 or as a subscription for $150 per year.

And along with the new software, Microsoft's Office.com Web site gets a refresh in both look and functionality. The Web site lets you manage your account, set up and check the status of your subscription, and download the Office software to your computer.

Senior Managing Editor Kent German contributed to this report.

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