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Stop Buying Microsoft Office (and Windows, too)

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  critique tech

9 min read | 2401 words | 237 views | 0 comments

Yes, we're coming right out and saying it. No reservations. The days of paying for Office are past. If you're still upgrading your copy of Office every few years (or worse, shelling out money to Microsoft each month for a subscription), you should really consider closing your wallet to Microsoft and spending that money elsewhere.

Why prompts us to say this? How dare we insinuate that the era of Microsoft dominance is over, and that other office suites and operating systems are now sufficient?

To be clear, we're not endorsing either of these viewpoints because, quite frankly, neither of them is true. Office still runs circles around all the other office suites out there, which are quite pathetic in comparison. It may seem like Office is just unnecessarily powerful, but spend a few days with OpenOffice or LibreOffice, and you will be begging for your copy of Office back. So, isn't it still worth it?

Yes, it is! Office and Windows are still must-have tools in the workplace, school, and home office. However, it's fair to say that the latest copy of Office isn't. While it was once the case that Microsoft unveiled radically new improvements and changes with each version of Office, this is the case no longer. As a product, it has been largely mature for several years and static in terms of useful functionality.

Microsoft knows this, and it's clear to them that their current business model for Office is starting to fail. No longer able to come up with sizable improvements to the software, Microsoft is well aware that in the very near future, fewer people will see the point in paying for a new license of Office every three years, given that the cost of doing so is not trivial and that the "new features" list in each successive version of Office gets smaller and smaller. This is why they are heavily pushing their subscription model of Office these days, Office 365, whereby instead of paying a one-time fee for a perpetual license, you instead pay Microsoft each month for as long as you want to use the software. Not only is the software never truly "yours" to keep, but you've coerced by Microsoft into abiding by its continually changing system requirements and features. While Office 365 subscribers benefit from having access to new features more frequently, on the flipside, Microsoft could take those away at any point. Want to use the Microsoft Office Picture Manager? Sorry, if you're an Office 365 subscriber, you're out of luck, since you'll have to be on Microsoft's "latest and greatest" for your platform. As has been well evidenced by Windows 10 and recent versions of Office, Microsoft is direly out of touch with its core longterm customer base, and those who believe paying Microsoft for a subscription will ensure they always have access to the tools they need may as well consider throwing their hard-earned dollars into a food shredder instead.

There are two reasons why continuing to pay for Office no longer makes sense. One is usefulness. The fact of the matter is that there have been no significant useful feature updates to Office since Office 2010; instead, Microsoft has only deprecated useful parts of the office suite that have not been replaced with any similar software (ahem, Picture Manager). The list doesn't end there, but goes on to include InfoPath, discontinued as of 2013, and the original OneNote, as of 2016. This prompts the question: why "upgrade" to a newer version of Office when you receive markedly less for your dollars? Why not stick with what you have and continue to benefit from useful tools that Microsoft has since deprecated, and not be bogged down by clutter and unnecessary clicks and useless dialogs that have have characterized Office since Office 2013?

In addition to deprecating parts of Office on whatever whims Microsoft has, new versions of Office have seen - to put it bluntly - very few or no new features. Take a look at this post from last month, called New Office: Same as the Old Office, by Brian Posey. It's a clear sign that times have changed and that Microsoft just doesn't have anything more to add to the software. So, if you're not paying for more features, than what are you paying for? It's not entirely clear. The obvious answer is continued security and bug updates. Is that worth the cost? Unless you have piles of cash sitting around, we would argue: no. At least until next year, Office 2010 is still receiving security updates, and the software inherently has protections built into it that will make it safe to use for years to come even after extended support ends. There are tons of people still using Office 2003 who, apart from not being able to open the new XML-format Office documents, have encountered few obstacles.

Okay, so "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". The second reason is that Microsoft is dangerously deciding to treat perpetual Office licensing as a second-class citizen. In an attempt to discourage people from paying for a perpetual license and to encourage them instead to pay Microsoft on a monthly or annual basis, Microsoft is no longer even trying to hide the fact that it just blatantly doesn't give two hoots about the traditional software license package. A post titled Microsoft Office 2019 is NOT the version you want to buy, by Kim Komando, reveals some shocking and startling facts about Office. The fact is that Office 2016 was essentially the Office 365 branch of Office frozen at a specific point in time (when it was released). The difference? Office 365 would continue receiving feature updates, while Office 2016 would not. Essentially, as far as Microsoft is concerned, Office 365 is now the "real" Office and its perpetual platform is an afterthought, a second-class (or third-class) citizen.

This sounds bad enough, but it gets worse. When Office 2019 was released, features included in Office 365 at release time were notably absent from Office 2019. In other words, Microsoft intentionally made Office 2019 inferior to Office 365. Yes, you read that right. Microsoft is sabotaging its own software. Who would have guessed?

In all honesty, the features that Office 365 includes these days are rarely terribly useful or anything to get excited about. Most of them are focused on cloud integration and features that power users of the software will realize few or no benefits from. At the same time, on a matter of principle, this behavior is highly concerning and decidely off-putting. We disagree that a subscription model works for everyone; while it may be right for some people, it is not right for everyone. A side consequence of a subscription model is it is not possible to "hide" from Microsoft any longer and remain invisible to them. Want to go to the store and buy a copy of Office 2019? You can, and, apart from product activation, Microsoft will not really no. What if Microsoft decides to discontinue the software? Well, you have a perpetual license, so they can't stop you from using it. On the other hand, want to use Office 365? Well, you better have a Microsoft Account, because you'll one to input your credit card details and set up your Office profile. Don't want your Microsoft Account email in Office? Too bad, because Microsoft really wants it there! Want to pass on your copy of Office to a friend? Too bad, you can't! He'll need to sign up with his own Microsoft Account! You have far less privacy and, more importantly, control, when you opt for Office 365. Power users rarely or never pay for software subscriptions, and for good reason. While Microsoft makes a clear distinguishment between licensing and owning software, owning a perpetual license is, for all practical purposes, the same thing as owning, and if you don't own something, you can't count on the fact that it will be there tomorrow and that you can use it as you like.

Here's the reality. It's easy in a capitalist economy that subscribes to the erroneous assumption that growth is infinite and unlimited that everything can keep getting better and that you need to keep upgrading to the newest thing, because newer is better and newest is always best. At one point, this was true, but it's not true any longer. As with many other things, either of its own doing or perhaps also because of the nature of the software, Microsoft has pretty much maxed out when it comes to its software output. In fact, we can trace it to Windows 7 and Office 2010, both released about ten years ago. That was the high point of Microsoft software. Since then, it's only gotten worse, and Microsoft has not brought much to the table.

If you think about it, it's not hard to see. Up until 2010, Microsoft made massive improvements to its software. Up through Windows 7, every version of Windows had massive numbers of improvements and new features. Up through Office 2010, every version of Office had countless new and drastically improved features as well. On the other hand, Microsoft has not improved Windows since Windows 7 (arguably, it's done the opposite). Same with Office — most people can't distinguish between Office 2013, Office 2016, Office 2019, and Office 365 — they're all a massive eyesore with their bloated modern UI and UX, and there's no major improvements in the software.

In other words, Windows and Office will never get any better. They're both ten years saturated. Maxed out. Climaxed. Peaked. So, why keep paying for it?

In fact, this reality may very well be responsible for a recent trend in the software industry: software as a service, a.k.a. software subscriptions. Everyone hates it, but software vendors love it. Why? Because they know they're not bringing anything new to the table, and they know there's no real reason for people to keep buying their software when they're not improving it. The solution? Coerce people into buying software subscriptions that will keep the dough flowing in as long as customers are using the software, rather than as long as the vendor is improving it. Suddenly, Microsoft's and Adobe's behavior makes sense. Why does Microsoft really want people subscribing to Office, rather than purchasing perpetual licenses? Because there's nothing to improve anymore, but they still want your money!

If software can't be improved, charge a subscription, and revenue will keep coming in. Don't fall into the trap!

As Microsoft has made clear, in more ways than just through Office, that it has abandoned its core longtime users and left them in the dust, it is not overly surprising that Microsoft is sabotaging its perpetual software licenses, but it is nonetheless discomfiting. And it's yet one more reason to stop continuing to pay for Office. You shouldn't cave in to Microsoft's demands and pay for a subscription for software that will never be yours to own or control. And you shouldn't settle for paying Microsoft for third-rate software that is merely a stripped-down second-class version of its subscription-based sibling. The new versions of Office are just something to stay away from.

So, what are we suggesting? Pirate the software? No, certainly not! You more than likely probably have several copies of Office already laying around — Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003, and so on. You may be surprised to see that they work quite well. In fact, Office 2010 arguably outperforms newer versions of Office: both Office 2013, 2016, and 2019 and Office 365, with fewer obstructions and more actually useful features. Office 2010 remains fully compatible with modern Office documents, while Office 2007 has a few issues with some files. As a result, you can be more productive, and you can forget about paying for a new version of Office every time one comes out — or worse, every month.

Office is undeniably still king of the office. You need a copy of Office if you have any desire of being technologically competent in the 21st century. But as we've seen, the latest copy of Office is decidedly not the best, and paying more money for the same or less these days just makes no sense. You can stay more productive while keeping your wallet happier by saying NO to Microsoft's subscription software and second-class software packages, and continue using a real version of Office that was first-class when it was released. If you have Windows XP or Windows 7, you can even run Office 2010, the best version of Microsoft Office ever released. If you have an earlier version of Windows, such as Windows 2000, older ribbon-less versions of Office will suffice, such as Office 2003. In a world of planned obsolescence and gross consumerism, Office is one purchase you should seriously consider never making again.

P.S. While this post applies to Office, the same logic inherently applies to Windows 10. It's an awkward, buggy, and stripped version of Windows that you should avoid for the sake of your sanity and your wallet (although in practice, Microsoft doesn't force you to activate Windows 10, so well, we won't say it outright, but if you do have to use Windows 10, well, you know). Yes, Windows 7 support is ending soon, and many tech sites will tell you to upgrade to Windows 10 or switch to Linux. Doomsday is coming if you don't move off of Windows 7! Actually, it's not. We can't promise you won't have problems if you click on suspicious email attachments or are prone to navigating to sketchy websites. But if you're decently computer literate, and use the computer in a responsible way, you're likely never any such issues with Windows 7, ever. Plenty of people are still using Windows XP, and even Windows 2000, and for good reason. Windows 10 lacks many of the useful features of older more robust releases of Windows, while it is filled to the brim with bloat and unusable interfaces. So grab your favorite copy of Windows off the shelf, whether it be Windows 7, Windows XP, or whatever, and say NO to Microsoft's coercion of Windows 10. Many tech power users are doing the same. While it's sad that Microsoft's new products have, more or less, ceased to be relevant, the company turned out some great stuff in its over 40 years of producing software, and its legacy will live on through its classic software that continues to be used here and there.

TL;DR: Don't bother "upgrading" beyond Windows 7 and Office 2010. It's not actually an upgrade, and unless you deliberately visit www.infectmycomputer.com on a regular basis, you'll continue to benefit from an excellent UI, solid features, and usable software.

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