Microsoft has confirmed Office 2013 licenses will be locked to one PC and one PC only, halting transfers of the office suite software to replacement computers and perhaps forcing users to use its new Office 365 services.
If you install Office 2013 on any PC, that licensed copy belongs to that computer for the life of that PC. $Deity help you if you lose that computer to hardware failure, age, or theft, because pfft! there goes your copy of Office 2013, even if you have the box with the license key and the installation discs.
This revelation has caused, as one might expect, some consternation in the tech community, if only because it puts the smackdown on the long-established practice of moving copies of Office to another computer when the need arose. Typically, a copy of Office outlasts at least one of my PCs, because the functionality of Office from one version to another isn't usually great enough to warrant a switch upon hardware upgrade. Especially for the price tag of Office.
Apparently, Microsoft is on to cheapskates like me, and is beginning to enforce corporate-like licensing on consumers now.
Just The Facts
Here's what PC World's Tony Bradley learned when he reached out to Microsoft.
"I asked Microsoft for clarification, and I received this official response: 'Office 365 Home Premium works across up to 5 devices (Windows tablets, PCs or Macs) and can be transferred across devices. The Office 2013 software is licensed to one computer for the life of that computer and is non-transferable.'"
The wording of Microsoft's response to Bradley is noteworthy: the software giant is clearly telegraphing that if you want ease-of-portability, then you should move to the subscription-based Office 365 model.
But that strategy makes little sense: while it is true you can have access to Office 365 on multiple computers at the same time, that's not the same thing as being able to take the one copy of Office you own and move it to another computer, deleting the copy on your first PC or allowing the copy of Office to deprecate when the machine is taken to the nearest recycling center.
Users pretty much get the fact that you have to buy multiple licenses of Office (or other locally installed software) when using it at the same time. But now Microsoft is saying that their software is forever tied to the first PC on which you install Office 2013.
Curiously, Microsoft is trying to justify this move with the somewhat whiney excuse that they've done this before.
"Office 2013 has the same licensing provisions around transferability as the equivalent Office 2010 package, which was the package purchased by most Office 2010 customers," the company told Bradley.
Um, not quite. Computerworld did some digging and learned that while there was language in Office 2010's EULA that seemed to limit one licensed copy to one PC, there were allowances in the legalese made for shifting from one PC to another.
"'You may reassign the license to a different device any number of times, but not more than one time every 90 days,' stated the EULA for Office Home & Student 2010, the most popular consumer version of that edition. 'If you reassign, that other device becomes the 'licensed device.' If you retire the licensed device due to hardware failure, you may reassign the license sooner.'"
That kind of language has been removed from Office 2013's EULA.
Like A Good Neighbor?
When I examined the pricing differences of Office 2013 versus Office 365 earlier this month, I was making the presumption that when you used a copy of Office 2013, you would be able to use that copy of Office 2013 for a hypothetical full three-year period.
Three years is a reasonable time to expect a computer to run and still be fast enough to keep up with the software Joneses, but it's not unreasonable to expect the inevitable loss of PCs due to breakdowns, theft, or disasters. That skews the pricing model a bit for the single-PC users that would have otherwise benefited from using the local versions of Office 2013.
If you recall, for one PC using the various Office flavors for three years, the cost breakdowns were:
Office 365 Home Premium: $299.97
Office Home and Student: $139.99
Office Home and Business: $219.99
Office Professional: $399.99
But if you factor in the possibility of a PC replacement (planned or otherwise) within those three years, for whatever reason, you get a pricing model like this:
Office 365 Home Premium: $299.97
Office Home and Student: $279.98
Office Home and Business: $439.98
Office Professional: $799.98
So, if you have any plans to update your hardware soon, Office 365 looks like a much better bet, unless you are using the version of Office with the least features, Home and Student. And, if you are worried in any way about unplanned loss, then suddenly Office 365's subscription plan looks suddenly like an insurance policy.
Microsoft is clearly trying to push users into getting connected to its own ecosystem, hoping Office 365 and the just-released to the public Outlook.com will tie users into their services just as Google/Android holds its users in quiescent (and revenue generating) thrall.
The key difference is that while Google uses the freemium model for attracting users, Microsoft seems to be applying the use-this-or-pay-more model.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.