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Office 2013 retail licensing change ties suite to specific PC forever

February 15, 2013 10:28 AM ET

And to paraphrase President Theodore Roosevelt, that stick is pretty big.

For example, Computerworld's "rent versus buy" calculations, made without factoring in the EULA change, are rendered obsolete: If a customer must buy another copy of Office 2013 because of the change -- to equip a new PC, say -- Office 365 Home Premium becomes the better deal if just three PCs, rather than the earlier estimate of four, install the suite over a five-year span.

As all the licensing experts pointed out, the EULA change does not affect businesses that have any of several Office volume licensing deals in place. For them, the new restriction is moot, as those deals allow flexible license reassignment.

"Volume software used by business is not affected by this," said DeGroot, citing language in Microsoft's latest product use rights document.

In that regard, the consumer-esque Office 365 Home Premium resembles a volume license agreement, said Ullman, who blasted Microsoft for not publicizing the EULA change.

Consumers in the dark

"Isn't Microsoft obligated to inform end users of this substantial change?" he asked. "I think so. As a leading technology company, I think they're obligated or at least have the responsibility to tell their customers of the change. Otherwise, consumers will simply accept [the EULA], perceiving it to be the same as what they've used for years. But only after they install it, or try to reassign it, will they discover that the use rights have changed."

His criticism, he said, was based in part on Office's widespread use. "There's not a consumer or user who doesn't know of or use Office," Ullman argued. "And this change will affect millions of consumers."

Microsoft has published the EULAs for Office 2013 on its website, and retains the licensing agreements for older editions as well. To read the new EULAs of the two lower-priced editions, or compare them to those for Office 2010, customers can use these direct links to download PDFs: Office Home & Student 2010, Office Home & Student 2013, Office Home and Business 2010 and Office Home & Business 2013.

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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