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Microsoft Is About to Launch Its Newest Subscription Product

By Evan Niu, CFA - Mar 17, 2020 at 9:00AM

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The company is expected to unveil a consumer version of Microsoft 365 later this month.

Enterprise software giant Microsoft (MSFT -1.05%) has sent out press invites for an online virtual event on March 30. The company typically hosts spring product unveilings but is changing the format in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Microsoft has reportedly been working on a consumer version of Microsoft 365, the subscription bundle that includes Office 365, Windows 10 Enterprise, and more that the company currently sells to the enterprise.

Here's what to expect from the event.

Satya Nadella fist-pumping

CEO Satya Nadella. Image source: Microsoft.

A new and improved Office 365 for consumers

Microsoft is expected to brand the offering with "Life" in some form or fashion, according to both The Verge and ZDNet. The consumer version of Microsoft 365 was originally scheduled to be announced last year at Microsoft's annual developer conference, Build 2019, but was delayed. It's unlikely that Microsoft will show off any new hardware like Surface devices.

Microsoft 365 has been helping the company expand its presence in the enterprise even further, with increasing adoption from "both new and existing customers," according to CFO Amy Hood. On the last earnings call, Hood also said, "Office 365 commercial seats grew 21% with an increasing mix from our Microsoft 365 suite."

The consumer tier is expected to include Office 365 and a new version of Teams, Microsoft's Slack competitor, that will have new features geared toward consumers like shared family calendars. Some type of password manager may also be included in the bundle. Microsoft might even keep the same overall pricing structure as Office 365, which costs between $70 to $100 per year. That could mean Microsoft 365 Life is essentially a rebranded version of Office 365 that simply includes more features designed for regular consumers.

Microsoft has executed incredibly well in transitioning the Office business, one of its biggest cash cows, to a subscription model over the past decade.

Chart showing Office 365 consumer subscribers

Data source: Microsoft. Chart by author. Calendar quarters shown.

However, growth has decelerated somewhat in recent quarters, and revamping the offering could reinvigorate subscriber additions if the new features resonate with consumers.

1 billion and counting

Separately, Microsoft also announced this week that it had reached a major milestone: Windows 10 now powers 1 billion devices. When Windows 10 was launched in 2015, Microsoft set an aggressive timeline of reaching 1 billion devices in just two to three years. But the company's widely documented failures in the mobile market presented a setback, as essentially all smartphones nowadays run either iOS or Android. The company reached 900 million Windows 10 devices last September.

"One in every seven people on the planet are planning, creating, ideating, executing, moving, shaking and doing great things with Windows 10," exec Yusuf Mehdi wrote in a blog post.

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