Office 2013 License

I saw this sign at the hardware store the other day, above the lawn sprinklers: Please note that once you hook this sprinkler up to a hose, you are not allowed to unhook it and attach it to a different hose. You may only reattach it to the same hose. If you ever buy a new hose, you will need to also buy a new sprinkler.

Not really. But if you go to purchase a retail copy of Microsoft Office 2013, you’ll see a similar message. New in this version of Office are the license terms that the copy of Office you are buying will be irrevocably tied to the first machine you install it on, no exceptions. In other words, if I go out and buy Office 13 and install it on my laptop, and then the very next day spill a whole glass of homemade ginger ale down into the keyboard, killing the laptop, I’ve also just killed my copy of Office. When I buy a new laptop, I’ll have to buy a new copy of Office; the install discs I have sitting right there will be useless.

Microsoft wants customers to migrate to Office 365 in the worst way, apparently even if it means making the licensing terms of the retail version odious in comparison.

Perhaps what I find most surprising it’s that this move has received so little press. When I first read about the change in terms, I found very little commentary. Maybe no one cares because Office is usually purchased with new machines (and OEM licenses have always been tired to the machine)? I don’t know.

In any case, assuming Microsoft isn’t intentionally trying to sabotage the product to push people toward Office 365, this kind of move shows the problems with licensing instead of owning, particularly when combined with a near-monopoly. The temptation to generate new revenue by imposing arbitrary restrictions is apparently too great. I’d much prefer that Microsoft’s business model was to create great software, make it as easy to access and use as possible, price at what the market well bear, then create compelling upgrades that drive people to want to buy the newest version rather than forcing them to buy it grudgingly because they upgrade their computer (I wonder what hardware manufacturers think of this since it creates a disincentive to upgrade hardware).

The Office suite is an essential set of tools for an instructional designer. The question is whether there are any features in the newest version worth putting up with the customer-adverse licensing.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this article, some attention has begun focusing on the issue. It would be great to see MIcrosoft reconsider.

UPDATE #2: Reason wins the day. Still, how was it that anyone in Microsoft thought that the non-transferable license was a good idea in the first place?


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