I really hope that I have got this wrong and it’s all a simple misunderstanding. But it seems that, however wonderful the new features in Office 2013, the new retail licence agreement is about as fair as an early 2000’s Tour de France. As revealed by Paul Booth over at the Excel Community the Office Watch site includes a detailed analysis of the new terms.
I’m not writing as one of the many ‘hate Microsoft at all costs’ commentators, but as someone for whom Microsoft software is a key component of what I do to earn a living. I’ve also often defended Microsoft against what I’ve thought of as unfair criticism, but I’m not sure even I can find much to defend in Microsoft’s recent licence terms change.
The Office 2010 retail licence allowed the purchaser to use the software on one device at a time, including having it installed on both a main PC and a notebook – as long as both were predominantly used by the same person. The Office 2013 licence apparently restricts the user to using it on a single computer. Not serial single computers. A single computer. Just the one computer. This is similar to the terms of the previous OEM versions of Office, where the software was included with a new computer. At least the OEM version had some logic, you bought it at a reduced price as part of a hardware/software bundle so it made some sense that the ‘bundle’ lived and died together. But now the same terms seem to apply to full-price, retail versions bought completely independently of any hardware purchase.
Spend £300 plus on a retail version of Office 2013. Install it on your notebook today, accidentally reverse over the notebook tomorrow, throw the notebook (having completely removed all confidential data, of course) in the bin. Go out and buy a new notebook. Go out and buy a new licence for Office 2013. Or, maybe more realistically, buy Office 2013, install it on your computer, realise you could do with a more powerful computer to take advantage of some of the latest features, have to buy Office 2013 over again.
Can this really be what Microsoft intends? Who’s going to buy a retail version of Office 2013 to put on any machine that’s older than about 6 months, knowing that they are almost certainly going to lose the right to use it in less than 4 years. After all, there is now the Office 365 ‘rental’ option with much more flexible, one user but up to 5 devices, licence terms.
Microsoft might want to move its customers away from the perpetual to the rental option but there must be better ways to do so than to sneak in punitive licence terms. Let’s hope this is just a misunderstanding or mistake and that Microsoft will release a definitive statement, or at the very least explanation, extremely soon.