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There’s a subscription for almost anything these days. Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN charge as little as $5 a month to access vast libraries of movies and TV shows. Apple and Google ask for 99 cents a month to store your photos, documents and other data. Game consoles such as Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation offer hundreds of games for as low as $10 per month. And Amazon Prime, Instacart Express and Grubhub Plus charge up to $120 a year to deliver take-out, groceries and all sorts of goodies.

Microsoft is betting there’s another subscription you’ll be willing to sign up for. The company calls it the “subscription service for your life.”

The new service, called Microsoft 365, takes the Office subscription service and tries to make it more appealing. The company is adding new features like its Microsoft Editor, which tracks what you type and recommends different words, less jargon and more concise ways to say whatever you’ve typed. And it has partnered with companies such as photo and video app maker Adobe, meditation app Headspace and kid-monitoring app Bark to give you access to some of their apps and services too. Microsoft 365 will be available starting April 21, costing the same as before at $6.99 per month for an individual plan and $9.99 per month for a family of up to six people.

Microsoft believes the service will entice people by offering a merger between work and life, said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president who helps head up its search, devices and “modern life” initiatives. “We’ll be a curator of stuff that’s out there.”


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The move, which CNET sister site ZDNet reported was in the works for well over a year, marks Microsoft’s latest effort to stake out ground beyond its Office suite of software. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook have become staples of the corporate world over the decades. But increasing competition from Google’s free Docs, Sheets and Slides has pushed Microsoft to change its approach.

In 2014, the company began offering its Office suite of apps on iPads, iPhones and devices powered by Google’s Android operating system. The company also offers free access to its OneNote note taking software, which competes with apps like Evernote, Google’s Keep and Apple’s own Notes app.

Microsoft’s effort to add outside apps makes its 365 service like Xbox Game Pass, its popular $9.99 per month service offering people access to more than 260 games both from its Xbox team, as well as outside developers such as Square Enix, maker of the Final Fantasy adventure series, and Bethesda, publisher of the popular Doom shooting games.

Over time, Mehdi said Microsoft plans to add more outside apps to Microsoft 365.

New features

Microsoft Editor is like spellcheck on steroids.


Microsoft

In addition to the new partnerships Microsoft struck for its service, the company is adding new features, such as its Microsoft Editor. The technology, which works in 20 languages and was first offered in December as an add-on for Google’s Chrome extension, uses artificial intelligence to track what you’re writing and suggest changes for duplicate words, jargon and poor grammar. 

Now, it’s being built into Microsoft’s Office apps and has new features like a plagiarism checker and inclusive language critiquing that will suggest terms like “police officer” instead of “policeman.”

Microsoft is also building new features into its PowerPoint presentation software that will listen as you rehearse and recommend changes. 

In Excel, Microsoft is offering new features that will connect with banks and credit cards to download people’s spending data so they can better budget their money. “It can help you improve your spending habits by providing personalized insights on how much you’re spending on categories like groceries each month and proactive alerts about price changes for recurring payments, bank fees, overdraft warnings, and more,” the company said.

Also new is an app called Family Safety that lets parents monitor and regulate their kids’ screen time on Windows, Android and Xbox. Parents can see the apps and games kids are using and for how long, steer them away from mature content, set their default web browser and even see what search terms kids are using.

And for when the coronavirus shelter-in-place limits lift, Microsoft Family Safety can send parents alerts when family members leave specific locations like home, work or school. It also will be able to track driving habits. Family Safety will be available for iOS and Android devices in coming months, Microsoft said.

CNET staff writer Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

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