February 15, 2013, 11:59 AM — Microsoft yesterday confirmed that a retail copy of Office 2013 is permanently tied to the first PC on which it's installed, preventing customers from deleting the suite from one machine they own and installing it on another.
The move is a change from past Office end-user licensing agreements (EULAs), experts said, and is another way Microsoft is pushing customers, especially consumers, to opt for new "rent-not-own" subscription plans.
"That's a substantial shift in Microsoft licensing," said Daryl Ullman, co-founder and managing director of the Emerset Consulting Group, which specializes in helping companies negotiate software licensing deals. "Let's be frank. This is not in the consumer's best interest. They're paying more than before, because they're not getting the same benefits as before."
Prior to Office 2013, which debuted last month, Microsoft's EULA for retail copies of Office plainly stated that customers could reassign a license when, for example, they replaced an aged PC with a newer model, or the original machine gave out.
"You may reassign the license to a different device any number of times, but not more than one time every 90 days," stated the EULA for Office Home & Student 2010, the most popular consumer version of that edition. "If you reassign, that other device becomes the 'licensed device.' If you retire the licensed device due to hardware failure, you may reassign the license sooner."
That language showed in the EULAs of all retail versions of Office 2010, including Home & Business, which targets small businesses, and Professional, another business-oriented suite with even more applications.
Microsoft modified the EULA for the same editions of Office 2013, however, eliminating the suite's flexibility by striking the clause about reassigning the license. In several other places in the EULAs, those same EULAs also stated, "Our software license is permanently assigned to the licensed computer."
On Thursday, Microsoft confirmed that once a retail copy of Office 2013 is installed on a PC and activated -- the process of entering a 25-character "key" to prove the software was legitimately obtained -- it cannot be uninstalled and then re-installed on another machine owned by the customer.
Via email, Computerworld asked Microsoft, "Once an Office 2013 retail license is assigned through activation to a PC, it's connected TO THAT PC, correct? Just as is Windows. That then means it cannot be reassigned to ANOTHER PC owned by the same individual, correct?"
The response from Microsoft's public relations firm was simply, "Correct."
Another question asked whether, under the retail Office 2013 EULA, customers could move the suite -- and its license -- to a replacement PC when the original was lost, stolen or destroyed. Microsoft reply: "No comment."