Office 2013: Fear, Loathing and Misinformation
An alarming story about Office 2013 is flying around the Web: Once you install a retail copy of Microsoft Office 2013, you can never install it on another PC without paying Microsoft for a whole new license. And the reason, the pundits say, is to herd the masses into a "software rental" mindset. Is it true? Read on...
Is Office 2013 a Bad Deal for Users?
Rumors are flying that Office 2013 is an "install once" product. Microsoft's own documents seem to indicate that you can’t buy a new PC and install the copy of Office 2013 that you already own. It isn’t clear that you can even change hard drives or other components without paying for a new copy of Office 2013. So goes the tale being told by many an indignant tech pundit. But it isn’t true.
Yes, Microsoft has tweaked the license agreement for Office 2013. For Office 2010 (the previous verion) it read as follows: "You may reassign the license to a different device any number of times, but not more than one time every 90 days. 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 “reassignment” clause is gone from Office 2013’s license agreement. In many places, the agreement now states, "Our software license is permanently assigned to the licensed computer." This restriction is made enforceable during the registration process. When you enter that lengthy registration key during installation, it is combined with data gathered from your computer’s hardware to create a unique activation code that essentially says, “This copy of Office (identified by the registration key) is valid only on this machine (identified by the data collected from the machine).”
The activation code is transmitted to Microsoft and checked during each attempt to re-install Office 2013. If the machine changes, the new activation code won’t match the one that Microsoft has, and the installation will fail.
But here is the secret: if you can erase Microsoft’s record of that activation code, then your copy of Office 2013 is not “assigned” to any computer; it’s as if Office has never been installed. You can install it on a new or modified PC. There are two ways to accomplish this erasure (without any hacking skills).
Call tech support, explain that you have replaced or modified your PC, and beg the support rep to delete your activation code. That may or may not work, depending on the rep’s training or mood. (Hint: ask nicely.) The second method is to go to the Office 2013 Web site, log in to the account you created during your online purchase or registration, and erase your activation code yourself. See that “download/install” button in the lower-right part of the screen? After activation, it switches to something like “deactivate your license.” Click that button, follow instructions, and you’re free to install Office 2013 on a new PC.
You can’t blame the tech press alone for not revealing this secret. Microsoft’s press relations people have been stubbornly disingenuous about the subject, handing out terse “no comments” when asked point-blank whether it’s possible to transfer an Office 2013 license to another computer. I stumbled across the truth on Reddit where some Office gurus were discussing it. Microsoft has created this confusion, and it looks like it was intentional.
Why Is Microsoft Trying to Change the Software Delivery Model?
It can't be denied that Microsoft wants to steer people AWAY from buying locally installed copies of Office 2013. They'd much rather see you using their cloud-based Office 365 service, which is basically a "software rental" concept. Instead of paying once for a copy of Office that you can install on your hard drive, you pay an ANNUAL fee to use Office 365.
Piracy is one big concern; it’s estimated that one-third of all Office copies installed are stolen. The company would rather get streams of annual subscriptions to Office 365 than one-time payments for Office 2013. The “one licensed device” provision is a draconian and underhanded disincentive to buy the retail product. But other factors make Office 365 a positive choice for many users.
A single-license copy of Office 2013 Home edition (the one you buy once and install on your computer) costs about $140. Contrast that with the $99 annual cost of Office 365, and you might see it as a raw deal. But wait, you can use Office 365 on up to five devices (PC, Mac, or select smartphones and tablets) simultaneously. You also get 60 free Skype talk minutes a month and an extra 20 GB SkyDrive storage.
Which is a Better Deal?
So let's break it down. If you're a single-user household, and you tend to upgrade your office software every three years, your total cost for Office 2013 is $140. Likewise, if you have two Office users in the family, your cost is $280. For three users, you'd spend $420. Five users: $700. Going with Office 365, you'd spend $300 in the same period. So obviously there are scenarios where "renting" your Office software will save money in the long run.
Bottom line: If you need three of more Office licenses, you'll probably see an advantage of going with Office 365 and paying the annual fee.
Similar price advantages apply to small business and enterprise versions of Office 365. With Office 365, there are far fewer bytes to download in order to keep your copies up to date. Most of the updates are applied on Microsoft’s servers. Also, updates are applied continually, not just once a month; Office 365 can respond to changing security vulnerabilities more rapidly.
What About FREE Office Alternatives?
There are alternatives to Office 2013 and Office 365, of course. There are even some free options that are pretty darned good, and offer file compatibility with Word, Excel and Powerpoint. If you bought a new computer in the past few years, it probably came with the Office Starter Edition. It was free, but ads appeared on the screen. Microsoft hoped people would pay to upgrade to the full Office suite, but apparently not many did so. Office Web Apps is the replacement for Office Starter Edition. It's a free web-based service that offers word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation modules very similar to Office.
Other free office software alternatives include Libre Office, which is well regarded by many professionals, and is improving rapidly. Google Docs is all the word processor that many home and student users need. For information on these and several others, see my article Microsoft Office Alternatives.
And keep in mind that if you're satisfied with an older version of Office, there is no compelling reason to upgrade. I still use Office 2000 on one of my desktop PCs, and it works fine.
What's your opinion? Is a locally installed copy of Microsoft Office 2013 the only way to go? Or is one of the alternatives working for you? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 20 Feb 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Office 2013: Fear, Loathing and Misinformation (Posted: 20 Feb 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved