by Andy Patrizio
Microsoft launched both versions of Office at the end of January. Office 2013 is the single-user installation starting at $139.99, while Office 365 is an on-demand version available online for a monthly fee of $9.99 or an annual fee of $99.99.
With Office 2013, however, users are finding the fine print of the end user license agreement to be rather disagreeable. There is no ambiguity in this graph of the end user license agreement:
You may not transfer the software to another computer or user. You may transfer the software directly to a third party only as installed on the licensed computer, with the Certificate of Authenticity label and this agreement. Before the transfer, that party must agree that this agreement applies to the transfer and use of the software. You may not retain any copies.
Under these terms, you can't even transfer the software to yourself. If you buy a new PC, you can't install Office 2013 on that new PC. Some applications, like Adobe Photoshop, will allow you to deauthorize a PC so you can uninstall Photoshop on one computer and install it on another.
Office is primarily a corporate product. According to Microsoft's 2012 annual report, 80% of sales comes from businesses. But customers who want a word processor, spreadsheet and other basic business apps don't have much of a choice. Office's competitors have long since disappeared and Microsoft discontinued Works, the low-end version of Office, years ago.
In an attempt to quell growing outrage on the Internet, Jevon Fark from Microsoft Office consumer marketing made a blog post to discuss the licensing models for the various editions of Office 2013 and compared them against Office 2010 and Office 365.
He points out that the license for the Product Key Card (PKC) editions of Office 2010 - cards that were sold at retail but included only a product key and nothing else, you had to download the software from Microsoft - also had a similar restriction.
"It is important to note that Office 2013 suites have consistent rights and restrictions regarding transferability as the equivalent Office 2010 PKC, which was chosen by a majority of Office 2010 customers worldwide," Fark wrote.
He also points out that Office 365 supports five installations, that they are transferable from one PC to another, something neither Office 2010 and 2013 had.
Fark did not address a common rumor on the Internet that a customer could not even reinstall Office 2013 on the same PC if for some reason they needed to, such as after reinstalling Windows. Wes Miller, research analyst at Directions on Microsoft, doesn't think Microsoft would be that draconian.
"It's one of those things where you get into an echo chamber and it becomes a fact. But I would be shocked if you couldn't reinstall it. That would just be strange," he said.
Miller says the strictness of the 2013 EULA is designed to encourage consumers to adopt of Office 365 and its subscription-based model. "We see the same patterns on the consumer side where they are trying to get recurring revenue. That's good for any company, period. They are trying to get steady, reliable revenue. They've wanted to get this model for 15 years. It's just now the software can finally do it," he said.
Miller said there is a lot of interest in Office 365 and it has a lot of positives, especially for customers who need it in multiple locations. "They've come up with a price structure that works for consumers and you are paying for that flexibility to use it on up to five computers in the house and have the ability to roam. So you can use it when you go visit someone else, which wasn't possible before," he said.
What if your PC fails? If it isn't too old, you might be in luck: "In the event that a customer buys the Office 2013 software and installs it on a PC that fails under warranty, the customer can contact support to receive an exemption to activate the Office 2013 software on the replacement PC," according to updated blog post. What warranty means in this situation, however, remains unclear.
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