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No more free lunches: Microsoft discontinues Office 365 trial bundles

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Think about the last time you or someone you know bought a small laptop or tablet. Typically, a purchase such as this is accompanied by a free trial of Office 365’s compilation of software and services. This has been the case for about a year now, as Microsoft has historically partnered with PC makers to bundle extra software with its issued hardware.

Now that’s about to change. Microsoft has announced that it’s cutting the free Office 365 trial deal from its repertoire.

Hence the name, an Office 365 trial subscription once enabled users to install Microsoft Office on each a PC sporting Windows or Mac OS X, a tablet, and a smartphone for an entire year. Not only that, but it brought with it a terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage and 60 Skype minutes every month. It was certainly an incentive for those on the fence about buying a new computer.

But when the one-year trial is over, whether you like it or not, you have the option to start paying for the service or your Office 365 allowance will be terminated — meaning you can say goodbye to Office/free cloud storage access and say hello to paying $70 a year.

Confusingly enough, however, the new “Universal app” edition of Office on Windows 10 will still be free after your evaluation license expires. Don’t expect these apps to include the same features as the Office 365 version, however.

You’ll still have to subscribe if you want to make use of Microsoft’s productivity suite’s near-essential features like editing and saving files, as the free version restricts users to “view-only” versions of documents in Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. They’re also optimized for touch screens, so even that won’t be a great option for those of us still rocking the traditional desktop setup.

Of course, if you’re planning on getting a new computer, Liliputing has informed us of a few remaining options following the interruption of its Office 365 Personal one-year trial bonus.

  • Buy a cheap computer running Windows 8.1. These will still come with the free one-year subscription and every device sporting Microsoft’s previous OS can be easily upgraded to Windows 10 at virtually no cost.
  • Get a Microsoft Surface 3. Microsoft is still shipping these guys with the Office 365 trial even with Windows 10 preinstalled.
  • Apparently, there’s a free Web-based version of the Office suite called Office Online. It doesn’t have all the features you’d expect fro the full downloadable version of Office, but hey, it’s a free way to create and edit MS Office files natively.
  • There’s always the option to just not use Office at all. Seriously, give Google Docs a shot. There are also a number of other popular Office alternatives including LibreOffice, OpenOffice, Gnumeric, and AbiWord.

Surely, Microsoft Office isn’t the be-all and end-all anymore, but some users wouldn’t have it any other way, and that’s totally understandable. But for those users, the standalone version of Office 2016 is coming to both Windows and Mac this fall. Also without a 365 membership, you can download a trial version of the Office 2016 Preview from its official website.

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Gabe Carey
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A freelancer for Digital Trends, Gabe Carey has been covering the intersection of video games and technology since he was 16…
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