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Microsoft aims to win back consumers with new Microsoft 365 subscriptions

Microsoft is unveiling its new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions today, which are designed to replace and enhance existing Office 365 consumer plans. Much like the Office 365 Personal and Home subscriptions that exist today, Microsoft 365 Personal and Family plans will be available on April 21st, priced at $6.99 per month for Personal (one person) and $9.99 a month for a Family (up to six people) subscription. Both options will include access to Office, and new features will gradually roll out in the months ahead.

Microsoft 365 plans add two new features that will roll out in preview in the coming months: a new Microsoft Family Safety app and new features in Microsoft Teams for consumers. The new Microsoft Family Safety app is designed to allow families to share their location and manage screen time across multiple devices. Similar to Apple’s Find My app, Microsoft Family Safety can generate notifications when a family member leaves home, work, or school, and enables location sharing.

Microsoft has even built a driving report feature into the app that allows parents to keep an eye on first-time drivers in a household. None of the information will be shared with third parties, but I can’t imagine many teenagers will be thrilled to have mom and dad tracking their driving habits. The Family Safety app can also manage screen time across traditional Windows PCs, Android devices, and even Xbox consoles, so it’s all synced into a single location and limits can be set centrally.

While Skype is Microsoft’s primary communications app for consumers, it’s clear that the company is now focusing more on Microsoft Teams for both work and home. Microsoft is previewing new home features for Microsoft Teams that are now part of Microsoft 365 subscriptions. They’re designed to let friends and family connect in a group chat or through video calls, and share to-do lists, photos, and other content all in one location.

Microsoft is aiming these new Teams features at people who plan trips with friends, or those organizing book clubs and social gatherings. It doesn’t mean Microsoft Teams will replace Skype for everything, but it’s clearly where a lot of Microsoft’s energy is focused right now. All of these Microsoft Teams home features will be available in preview in the summer, and available generally later this year.

If you’re already an Office 365 subscriber, then you’ll be pleased to learn that Microsoft is adding a lot of Office-related features with this transition to Microsoft 365. Anyone will soon be able to access the existing Editor feature of Word, which is more of an advanced proofing service than the regular grammar and spellcheck features. Editor does things like improve your writing by flagging words that are used too frequently or teach you phrases to improve your writing style.

Microsoft 365 subscribers will get access to more advanced grammar and style guides, including a rewrite option that offers to rephrase entire sentences. There’s even a similarity checker to prevent plagiarism and coax students to properly cite content.

PowerPoint is also getting some exclusive features for Microsoft 365 consumers. The existing Presenter Coach feature, which helps people practice a slidedeck and avoid stuttering and swearing, is getting monotone pitch and speech refinement. Presenter coach will monitor your tone of voice and suggest variations and ways to improve your speech. Ultimately, it’s designed to make your presentations feel less boring.

One of the other aspects of family life that Microsoft is trying to tackle with its consumer subscriptions is money budgeting. Money in Excel sees Microsoft return to its Microsoft Money personal finance management roots to make it easier to track and analyze spending in Excel. Microsoft will connect to your bank and credit card accounts to import transactions and balances and generate alerts for fees, changes, and monthly spend. It’s a feature that will become available first in the US in the coming months.

Excel is also getting new data types to support things like food, places, movies, and even different types of pokémon. You could turn simple plain text like “tomato” into a food data type and track its nutritional information or compare different breeds of cats and dogs in tables. These new data types are powered by information from Wolfram Alpha and are exclusive to Microsoft 365 subscribers. Office Insiders will be able to start testing these data types in the spring before they roll out to all Microsoft 365 subscribers in the US in the coming months.

Outlook is getting some love, too, with the ability to link your work and personal calendars on the web. Elsewhere in Office, Microsoft 365 subscribers also get exclusive access to more than 200 new templates and thousands of images and videos from Getty Images. Microsoft is also bundling in 300 new fonts and 2,800 new icons for use across Office.

Microsoft is also unveiling a new Password Monitor feature for its Edge browser today. Despite rumors of a password manager being included in this new subscription, the Password Monitor will instead let you know if any passwords (stored in Edge) have been compromised in database breaches so you can change them easily. Edge is also getting a vertical tabs feature so you can stack your tabs at the side of the browser and a smart copy option that maintains formatting like text and tables when you’re pasting it elsewhere.

Microsoft is also working with Adobe, Experian, Bark, Blinklist, and others to offer limited-time access to other premium consumer subscriptions. Thirty-eight million people are currently subscribed to Office 365 Personal and Home, and those subscriptions will automatically transfer over to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family next month. It’s a base of users that has been steadily growing each year, and Microsoft had around 12.4 million subscribers five years ago.

There’s clearly a lot here that improves the existing Office 365 subscriptions, and it’s impressive that Microsoft is keeping the cost the same. Microsoft has been working on this new “modern life” subscription approach for nearly two years, and the fresh focus comes after the company killed off many of its troubled consumer pushes in recent years.

Microsoft previously killed off its Groove Music service, officially discontinued Kinect, scrapped its Microsoft Band fitness device, and finally admitted Windows Phone is dead. Cortana has also transitioned to be productivity-focused, all while Microsoft has become more focused on improving its products that resonate with consumers.

Microsoft 365 consumer subscriptions are clear evidence of the company’s recent direction. Instead of launching a Spotify competitor or something to take on TikTok or whatever is the latest and greatest app, Microsoft has taken a step back and is trying to add value where it matters. It’s a different approach that relies on a balance of work and life and a niche area where Microsoft is uniquely positioned to provide services that respect privacy and are focused on productivity.

This Article was first published on theverge.com

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