> Microsoft Account Subscription Thoughts

Microsoft Account Subscription Thoughts

Posted on Sunday, September 2, 2012 | No Comments

I’ve been thinking – which is always dangerous! – about Xbox Live subscriptions and there is a very good reason why too.  Let me explain…
12 Month Subscriptions
Last year I took out my first Xbox Live Gold membership, a 12 month subscription to the services offered by Microsoft on their Xbox console platform.  This includes access to online gaming, game extras, online interviews, video content, music content, messaging and a lot more. 
It’s quite a lot for your money, especially as it completely unlocks the potential of the console turning it into mere games console into a multimedia, interactive experience.  All for around £30 – bargain!
After a year of taking the subscription I reckon that I would now find it very difficult to give it up, even if I don’t always get the most of out it at all times (i.e. I don’t play online games).  But it’s not just my Xbox that the Gold membership unlocks, but also my Windows Phone Xbox games and soon the Windows 8 Xbox enabled games.
Windows 8
Microsoft have already announced that 40 Xbox gaming titles will appear on Windows 8 at launch, which is great news for Microsoft as a gaming platform and it certainly expands the reach of those games to those without an Xbox console. 
But for those that are already Xbox Live members, it simply expands the platform and pushes the reach of the Live membership further, allowing the users gaming profile to reach ever further.  The headscratcher, for me, is how does that change the membership once Microsoft switch all of their services to a single “Microsoft Account”?
For example, does an Xbox Live Gold membership, which allows me to stream video content from my Xbox also allow me to stream and access that same content from my Windows 8 laptop?  One would assume it does and if so that raises further questions.
Office
The next version of Microsoft Office (Office 2013), we already know is going to be delivered to users in a whole new way from previous versions; it will be delivered across the Internet from Microsoft Cloud services in the form of Office 365. 
This means that Office will be sold on a subscription basis, exactly the same as Xbox Live membership.  It is already believed that an Office subscription will allow the user to install the subscription on a number of devices (that number is yet to be determined, the trial version allows five), but no one is quite sure of the price just yet.
Having installed the trial version since its announcement and availability, I have to admit that Office 2013 is superb; everything has been adjusted to make it an absolute delight to use and so much difference for the better from the previous version.
Xbox Music
Another subscription based service coming soon for Microsoft is Xbox Music; their online music streaming service, that is charged separately from the Xbox Live Gold membership package.  Again, like Office, pricing has not yet been announced, but it’s likely to be charged similarly to Zune and other streaming services.
Microsoft Account
As all of these services become available, I’m really hoping that Microsoft is going to find a way to price each of these elements competitively and fairly, with discounts applied for those who take more packages than one and also for the number of devices the user has.
If the user has an Xbox device, Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablet registered against their Microsoft Account, wouldn’t it make sense for Microsoft to reward that user with a discounted price compared to a user who has a Sony Playstation, Android phone and Window 8 tablet or similar combination of non-Microsoft devices?
I would say it does, however Microsoft have been extremely fair with users in the past – granting access to the same software to those who use Apple devices for example.  Whilst that same offer hasn’t been extended to Google and their Chrome OS and Android platforms, there is no reason to think it wouldn’t be offered in the future as more services go online and are available across-devices, including those by Google.
Perhaps Microsoft could offer alternative incentives to users who subscribe to more than one service, such as increased SkyDrive storage or even Skype call minutes to those who opt for some of those online video/calling services within their subscription.
Whilst I hope that Microsoft don’t create a subscription service that is as complex as most mobile phone contracts are in the UK, balancing minutes, texts and data, these Microsoft Account services should be simple to understand, simple to order and simple to operate and apply to your account.  So far there is no evidence to suggest that won’t be the case though.
How much?
The final question is, how much would you be willing to pay for all or even some of these services?  £30 for an Xbox Live subscription for 12 months is great value and £30 a year for Office would be absolutely fantastic, but also possibly very unrealistic given the previous Office retail prices – but those are from a different time and for a full package.
Music services, SkyDrive storage, Skype calls and any additional services that can be bolted onto your account could result in a huge monthly or even larger annual bill at the start of every year that no user is going to look forward to paying.
There has been talk that Microsoft devices, such as Surface tablets and Xbox consoles may be offered greatly subsided to bring the price of the hardware down on the understanding that users sign up to multi-year or multi-service deals for online content and applications.
Caution is required, yet I’m confident that Microsoft will position their services exactly where they will appeal to users.

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