Microsoft launches Office 2013, Office 365 today

Starts the 60-day expiration clock for the suite's free previews

Microsoft will launch Office 2013 and new Office 365 subscription plans today, a move that also starts the countdown clock ticking for the expiration of free previews the company distributed last year.

On Monday, the Office team used Twitter to tease a kick-off event in New York City's Bryant Park. A new banner page on the Office website reads, "Coming January 29th. More time to do the things you want," also hinted at a rollout of Office 365 and Office 2013.

Microsoft had previously revealed all but the launch date for Office 2013, the name for the perpetual licensed version of the productivity suite, including pricing and licensing policies. Office 365, which has been revamped to include new subscription plans aimed at consumers and small businesses, will also debut today.

The launches of Office 2013 and Office 365, however, also mean that the expiration clock on the free Office previews begins to tick.

When Microsoft unveiled the previews last July, it told customers that they would "expire approximately 60 days after the next version of Office becomes available in your market." For most people running a preview, that will be near the end of March.

The previews will begin nagging users as the expiration date nears, according to an FAQ. Once past their sell-by date, the applications retreat to read-only mode, letting customers view and print existing documents, but not edit or save them, or create new documents.

Sticking with past practices, Microsoft is not offering discounts for those who tried out the Office preview. Prices for the suite start at $139.99 for Home & Student 2013, and $100 annually for Office 365 Home Premium. Customers who purchase the less-expensive Office 2010 through April 30 are also eligible for a free upgrade to Office 2013 or Office 365.

Users of Office for Mac 2011 should also expect an update today: Microsoft said one would be released at the launch of Office 365 to make the Mac version compatible with the new subscription programs.

All the Office 365 plans, from those for consumers to ones for small businesses and enterprises, allow Office for Mac 2011 to be installed as one or more of the five-per-household or five-per-user allowances.

Microsoft is also hosting one of its every-Tuesday webinars today at 12:15 p.m. ET, 9:15 a.m. PT, to highlight five features in Office 365 Home Premium, the consumer-oriented subscription plan.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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