From clothing to book prices to software licences, Canadians are used to shelling out more money than their neighbours south of the border for many products. That practice made sense when our dollar was valued quite a bit lower than the American greenback, but the practice seemed to continue unabated long after our dollar reached parity – or sometimes higher – with the U.S. dollar.
With each Canadian dollar being worth about USD$0.90 these days, Canadians will appreciate that Microsoft Corp. sees the dollar value as equal. At least in its pricing of Office 365 Personal, a new subscription plan offering for the cloud version of its popular productivity software suite that includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. A blog post by Microsoft this week announced Office 365 Personal will be coming this Spring, allowing individual users to connect one PC or Mac and one tablet for the price of US$69.99 per year or US$6.99 per month. Microsoft also confirmed with ITBusiness.ca that Canadians will also be able to access the service for $69.99 per year. Subscriptions to Office 365 also include 60 minutes of Skype calling and 20 GB of storage on OneDrive.
(The Office 365 Home subscription option remains at $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. It allows up to five PCs or Macs to be connected and no limit on mobile devices.)
A couple of years ago I railed against unequal pricing for Canadians subscribing to cloud services. If the dollar is not at par, or you’re dealing with a physical product that has to be distributed across the country’s vast geography, then asking Canadians to pay an extra premium is understandable. But in a situation where the dollar is near par (a reality now for several years) and you have a service that can just as easily be delivered over the Internet to Red Deer, Alta. is it can to New York City, then an equal price is fair. (In that post, I pointed to the extra $3 per month Canadian Windows Intune users had to pay.)
But the new licence choice for Office 365 raises other questions about Microsoft’s online services. Right now any OneDrive user can take advantage of free use of Office Web Apps. Online versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel await users who register for the free cloud storage service. That’s nearly as good as what’s offered by Office 365 and there’s no device limitations on accessing the service either. Would Microsoft consider clawing back on what it’s giving away for free?