Office 2013 licence confusion continues as Microsoft backtracks on broken PCs

Office 2013

Microsoft says it will allow Office 2013 reinstall on machines that break under warranty

Microsoft has tried to clarify the licence changes in Office 2013, in a bid to stem widespread criticism that copies of the software are non-transferable.

The move comes amid widespread consternation over changes to the licences for Office 2013, which tie perpetual copies of the software to the first machine on which they're installed.

In a blog post outlining the licence for Office 2013 and how it compared with the 2010 version, Microsoft admitted that the 2013 licence was tied to one PC, but said it would make allowances for users whose computers failed.

"An exception is granted when the software is on a PC that is replaced under warranty," the company said. However, that won't help self-builders or consumers whose machines fail shortly after the normal one-year warranty provided by manufacturers elapses.

The company faces further criticism for the way it has handled the changes in terms, with Microsoft initially claiming that there were no changes.

In an earlier statement sent to PC Pro, Microsoft said "Office 2013 has the same licensing provisions around transferability as the equivalent Office 2010 software".

The issue surrounds how the company is comparing full retail copies of the software with the earlier Product Key Card (PKC) versions. Like OEM versions, the PKC licences had no transfer rights, but the Full Package Product (FPP) version of Office 2010 was allowed to be installed on two or three machines and was transferable to another machine if a PC was replaced.

The company inserted a caveat in its latest blog post, saying: "It is important to note that Office 2013 suites have consistent rights and restrictions regarding transferability as the equivalent Office 2010 PKC, which was chosen by a majority of Office 2010 customers worldwide."

Muddy waters

However, the company's table to highlight the situation shows that it's difficult to evaluate equivalent products because there's no direct comparison.

"It's difficult to defend Microsoft on this one," said Matt Fisher, sales and marketing director for License Dashboard, who had previously supported Microsoft's right to change licences in a bid to push consumers to its online Office 365 suite.

"In some regards, the company is right - if you look at Office 2010 OEM version and Office 2013 OEM then it's right: there's no change. The OEM licence has always been tied to that machine," he told PC Pro.

"But it does seem pretty clear that when it comes to Office 2013 retail, with FPP products there is a change – before you could transfer it and now you can't, so I find it difficult to understand how the company can say 'Office 2013 has the same licensing provision'."

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the PKC licence doesn't exist with Office 2013. "It's either the off-the-shelf, fully packaged product or OEM, and there's no distinction because they have the same rights. Neither of them can be transferred," Fisher said.

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