Have Microsoft released a product they don’t want us to buy?
Years ago it was usual to buy Microsoft Office “bundled in” with a new computer. You acquired the package cheaper than buying it separately but it was only licensed for that specific computer: you couldn’t transfer it to a new computer later on. Fair enough, you got it for a good price.
Things then changed and it became the norm to buy Office separately. If you wanted the “Home and Student” version (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote) then the best option was to buy a package that explicity said on the packaging that it was licensed for three machines. This only cost about £10 more than the same package licensed for only a single machine. In both cases you could move the package to another machine(s) simply by installing on a new machine and uninstalling from the original. This was perfectly acceptable as far as the licensing was concerned and meant that you didn’t subsequently have to buy Office again when you bought a new computer.
No problem and all very reasonable – especially as the price of Office has come down considerably over the years. I remember paying about £400 for a version of Office (’95?) that came on about 26 floppy discs! Things have certainly improved since then.
Anyway, back to the present. If you are thinking of buying the new Office 2013 then be aware that Microsoft have changed the licensing. The three user package is no longer available and, much more importantly, the licence is only valid for the machine upon which the package is first installed. Initially. you could not move it to a new or different computer. This, not surprisingly, caused a bit of a to-do. What happens, you may ask, if your computer dies a month after installing your shiny new Office 2013? To start with, Microsoft made some kind of woolly-headed concession whereby they will help you out if the computer is still under warranty. This, of course, was still rubbish. They have now conceded – up to a point – and will allow you to move your Office installation, but no more often than every 90 days. How nice of them.
And what’s behind this insanity? Office 365, that’s what. Office 365 is Microsoft’s new version of Office. Instead of paying an outright price, you pay an annual subscription. And that, of course, is nirvana for a software manufacturer. Lovely jubbly. Keep the money rolling in on an annual basis instead of convincing the punter to upgrade to a newer, better, version every three to five years. What’s more, they have no costs or hassle in distributing the product. No problems in having to disseminate upgrades and bug fixes: they just change the versions on their own servers. All this is wonderful for them but means that we, the users, are losing control of the programs we buy and use.
I confess that I haven’t used either Office 2013 or Office 365 yet so I can’t comment on their merits. I’m not the only one, however, who suspects that the dreadful licensing terms on Office 2013 are there solely to hamper sales of this product in favour of its sibling. As part of my research for this article, I was looking to find Microsoft’s main web page selling Office 2013 so I tried the obvious search term “microsoft office 2013” expecting to find Microsoft’s own site come very high in the results (as you would). The first Microsoft site that comes up doesn’t even mention Office 2013 – just Office 365. So I tried narrowing the search by using the term “buy microsoft 2013”. The first three results that came up were punting Office 365. Finally, the fourth related to Office Home and Business 2013. Not for the first time, I feel as if I’m being bullied by Microsoft.
Office 2010 is still available to buy in the usual way and is a good product. However, the cheapest I can find Office Home and Student 2010 today (30/03/2013) via Amazon is £182. Unless I’m losing the plot, this is considerably more expensive than it used to be. Amazon are selling Office 2013 Home and Student at just £92.99 today. But this is definitely a case of caveat emptor. If you are tempted to go for this (single user) deal, be sure that you are happy with the licensing (that restricts its use to a single machine and is transferable to different machines no more often than every 90 days).
By the way, if you are one of the millions of happy campers still using Office 2003 then please be aware that Microsoft will cease support for this product in April 2014, at the same time that Windows XP is officially being buried. As with that product, security updates will not be issued after that date so it will become increasingly vulnerable to attack by hackers and ne’er-do-wells.