Microsoft's Work & Play bundle is one of the best deals the company offers — provided that you're committed to Microsoft's services. And not everyone is, which is why Microsoft has built additional flexibility into this third version of the package deal.
Microsoft's new Work & Play Bundle costs $149, maintaining the same price that Microsoft set last December when it knocked $50 off of its original, discounted deal. For that, you'll receive Office 365 Home (normally $100 annually), Xbox Live Gold (normally $60 annually) and Skype Unlimited World + Wi-Fi (about $168).
Normally you'd receive a $100 Xbox Music subscription to go along with all this, but this third version of the bundle swaps Xbox Music for two other options: a $60 gift card to the Xbox or Microsoft Store, as well as three months of Netflix. By my math, that's a total of $87, or a little less than the value Microsoft would offer with Xbox Music.
On the other hand, Microsoft's new bundle also recognizes that music fans may have chosen Spotify or another service, or may even be waiting to see if the new Apple Music eventually makes its way to Windows Phones or the web. (For now, Apple Music is iOS-only, with Android to follow.)
Why this matters: Microsoft's Work & Play bundle is a sweet deal, although some aspects may give you pause. I can't really see the need to call landlines and mobiles around the world as part of the Skype plan — although the available free Wi-Fi hotspots are certainly attractive. I hope Microsoft might consider some sort of "build your own bundle" plan like the cable companies provide, allowing you to combine, say, Office 365, Xbox Live Gold, and Netflix into a bundle whose discounts would increase the more you added to it. Still, you have to give Microsoft credit: With everything from Bing Rewards to revamping its Xbox Live Gold services to the free Xbox Music albums, Microsoft wants you to sign up for its services, and will essentially pay you to do it.
The fine print, both good and bad
As before, however, the plan is additive: In other words, if you already own an Office365 subscription, the bundle simply adds another year to the subscription. Ditto for Netflix — the fine print says you won't be charged for the three months covered by the bundle subscription. (Microsoft doesn't say which version of Netflix you'll receive, however; there are actually three, with most users subscribing to the "standard" $8.99/mo version. The $11.99 Premium version adds support for UltraHD streams.)
Six months ago, a gift card to the Microsoft Store might not have been worth all that much, at least where software was concerned. But with Microsoft's pledge to revamp the Microsoft Store, a $60 card might be worth holding on to.
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