Microsoft "pushing" Office 2013 buyers to Office 365 with non-transferable license rules

Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft has been accused of forcing end users to the cloud with its Office 2013 licensing rules, which ban them from installing the software on more than one device.

The latest version of the software giant's Office productivity suite was released at the end of January, but IT Pro supply chain sources claim many buyers do not realise the Full Packaged Product (FPP) version of Office 2013 can only be installed on a single machine.

Previous versions of the software have boasted portable use rights, which means in the event of a hardware failure users of the FPP version have been able to re-install Office on another machine.

Speaking to IT Pro, a Microsoft supply chain source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the change could significantly drive up the long-term cost of running Office 2013 for home users.

"If you buy Office 2013 FPP, it's basically the same as buying a version that comes pre-installed on your machine in that, when the PC dies, so does your copy of the software," the source said.

"I know why Microsoft is doing it, because they want more people to move to the cloud, but I just wish they'd come out and openly admit that."

In a statement to IT Pro, setting out its licensing strategy, Microsoft confirmed: "The Office 2013 software is licensed to one computer for the life of that computer and is non-transferable.

"If customers want to use Office applications across multiple devices, Office 365 Home Premium works across up to five devices (Windows tablets, PCs or Macs) and can be transferred across [them]."

Another Microsoft retail source, who asked not to be identified, told IT Pro the change shouldn't affect business users too much, as many will go down the volume licensing route to purchase the software.

I know why Microsoft is doing it, because they want more people to move to the cloud, but I just wish they'd come out and openly admit that.

"It is quite a big change...but the Office 365 subscriptions do offer great value and represent a better option for the majority of FPP users," he added.

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that Office 2013 has been built with cloud users in mind, as documents created in the suite can now be saved to its SkyDrive service rather than stored locally.

However, Clive Longbottom, service director at analyst Quocirca, said the change could catch many home users out, as very few are likely to read through the product's terms of use.

"Your general user is unlikely to understand or care about non-transferable licenses at least until they come up against the problem of I paid x amount for this, my computer broke and now Microsoft want me to pay again,'" Longbottom told IT Pro.

As a result, Microsoft will have to tread carefully in these types of scenarios to ensure users don't decide to opt for rival offerings, such as Libre Office or Google Apps.

"If not, it will be a massive own goal that will not be seen for a while, but could gather pace and spread virally if people start claiming Microsoft shafted them over Office licenses," he added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.