February 20, 2013, 2:53 PM — Microsoft customers can save between $20 and $40 on a one-PC, perpetual license of Office 2013 by purchasing a "product key card," a retail offer that consists of a 25-character activation key.
Product key cards, or PKCs, debuted three years ago alongside Office 2010 as a replacement for Microsoft's long-standing upgrade policies, which previously offered current users of the suite a lower-priced edition when it revamped the bundle.
Microsoft prices Office 2013 Home & Student at $140 on its e-store, and other online retailers, such as Amazon.com, sell that edition -- which includes Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word -- for the same price. But retailers, again including Amazon, also sell a PKC for $20 less, or $120. That's a 14% savings.
There are similar savings for PKCs of Office 2013 Home & Business and Office 2013 Professional, the other, more application-packed editions sold at retail or by Microsoft. A PKC of Home & Business sells on Amazon for $190, or $30 off the $220 list price, for a 14% discount. As a PKC, Professional runs $360, a $40 -- and 10% savings -- from the full price of $400.
The PKC and standard versions of each edition are identical, although the means customers acquire Office may differ.
PKCs were intended to provide a way for users to obtain a working copy of Office on a new PC that had a trial version of Office pre-installed. The idea was that customers would evaluate Office using the trial, then pay for -- and activate -- the suite with the 25-character key code purchased on a PKC.
That still holds true: Major OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) such as Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo include Office trials on their new machines.
But PKCs can also be used to activate a copy downloaded directly from Microsoft's website.
That's the same way, more or less, that buyers acquire Office from Microsoft's online store or at Amazon, where they plunk down money and then download the suite. (No retail edition of Office 2013 comes with a DVD or other physical installation media, a Microsoft Store sales representative confirmed today.)
There's also no difference between the full-priced and PKC versions on the rights their licenses grant.