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Microsoft retreats from Office 2013 restrictive licensing

March 6, 2013 09:01 AM ET

Microsoft had acknowledged the latter when it said two weeks ago, "We've been very clear in all of our communications that customers seeking transferability should get Office 365 and that Office 2013 is licensed to one device."

During Tuesday's interview, Fark declined to discuss why Microsoft had originally limited Office 2013's license to a single PC. In a later follow-up email, however, Fark repeated what Microsoft had said earlier: "We changed our product line up and not licensing terms," he said.

Microsoft based that concept on the fact that it dropped the multilicense packages which had been prominent in Office 2010. Like the retail price increases, the demise of the multilicense products was a prong in Microsoft's strategy to make perpetual licenses less attractive than Office 365 subscriptions. The Office 2010 "product key cards" (PKCs) -- cheaper, retail-only products sans an installation DVD -- did not allow license reassignment. By Microsoft's logic, it was simply replacing the Office 2010 PKCs with the retail versions of Office 2013.

The experts didn't buy it. "Let's be frank. This is not in the consumer's best interest," Daryl Ullman, co-founder and managing director of the Emerset Consulting Group, which specializes in helping companies negotiate software licensing deals, said in an interview two weeks ago. "They're paying more than before, because they're not getting the same benefits as before."

Office for Mac, which also saw price increases this year, is not affected by the new policy, as its EULA already allowed users to move a copy to another Mac. Nor are any of the Office 2013 volume licenses sold to enterprise impacted, as those have always allowed flexible license reassignment.

Even with the change, Office 365 subscriptions remained the most flexible on the license transfer front. The by-subscription plans let customers yank rights to Office from one machine and use it on another at any time, with no 90-day restriction. Office 365 Home Premium, which Microsoft rolled out in January, allows five Office copies on a household's computers, while Office 365 Small Business Premium offers the same number, but for a single user.

"A key ingredient in our formula for success [for Office] is listening to our customers, and we're grateful for the feedback behind this change in Office licensing," Fark concluded in a new blog post today. "Thank you."

covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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