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Office 2013 licence confusion continues as Microsoft backtracks on broken PCs

Office 2013

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 20 Feb 2013 at 12:29

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.

Office license

"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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User comments

Broken Publisher

More importantly is that Microsoft should provide a working product. Currently Publisher 2013 is unfit for use, please see these links for details:

By skarlock on 20 Feb 2013

Office 2013 FPP unavailable

Although Microsoft are pushing people towards Office 365 subscription model, it seemed that Office 2013 was available on DVD, but I could only find it on Microsoft's site (no reseller sold the DVD). I tried to buy it that way from Microsoft, the transaction failed, and in a chat session was told it was out of stock and to check back next week. (Seemed odd, a flagship product that was "released to manufacturing in October"). The following week, the same page now shows download only. So you can't get Office 2013 FPP even if you are willing to pay extra over the keycard + download it yourself option.
That's why Microsoft are comparing with the 2010 PKC version, Office 2013 is only PKC in practice anyway.

By martincowen100 on 20 Feb 2013


I have a DVD with Office 2013 that I purchased a couple of weeks ago. It can be bought, plenty of stocks on Amazon, although I couldn't say for sure regarding the high street.

By skarlock on 20 Feb 2013

when will this be challenged?

I have long been astonished at the way software companies have been allowed to get away with unilaterally redefining consumer rights by claiming that what is quite clearly a product sale (like a book or CD) is actually only a licence. I'd say too that now Office 2013 is clearly being offered as a rented service, it's claim to be selling the packaged software on a licence looks even more challengable. Maybe the law is on their side, but I'd have thought it was at least questionable, and their wriggling over these latest even more restrictive terms (the offer to allow a reload if the machine fails in warranty) only highlights the absurdity and indefensibility of their position. But whatever happens I won't be taking out a 365 plan - when my current machine dies I'll just revert to Office 2010 or embrace whatever stage LibreOffice has reached.

By tennyson09 on 20 Feb 2013

Can't find the DVD version on Amazon at all, do you have a link at all?

By EddyOS_2K9 on 20 Feb 2013

Euro warranty is 2 years!

European warranties are for two years not one. Its still a rubbish decision however. If you buy a product its yours; well it used to be like that...

By malmoy on 20 Feb 2013

what about..

if you purchase an extended warranty. Is that one for the lawyers

@malmoy beat me to it.

I think it is about time the OFT stepped in on this, so many companies try to let you think it is still only a 1 year guarantee.

By davidk1962 on 20 Feb 2013

You probably don't have a choice in the workplace but at home, sounds like a good reason to stick with 2010 or jump ship.

By JamesD29 on 20 Feb 2013

Having checked Amazon and the Microsoft store I can't find Office 2013 on DVD - its just for download.

I've not bought it or tried the download but I wonder if rather than downloading a file you can use, it simply downloads and installs right to your computer?

If your computer disk fails you lose everything and no way of re-installing without buying another copy or hoping Microsoft take pity and let you download again ( good luck with that )

I find this a major turn off and will be sticking with Office 2010 for the forseeable future.

By cyberindie on 20 Feb 2013

Price rises?

Something else that occurs to me.

If you go down the subscription route - I presume Microsoft are free at any time to increase the monthly subscription costs?

At the moment if you buy Office you can choose whether to upgrade to the latest version - depending on the new features and price.

With subscriptions you are locked in for life - you get upgrades and prices rises whether you like it or not.

I suspect Office 365 will start cheap and over time will see its price rise and rise.

By cyberindie on 20 Feb 2013

Subscription Also on Security Software

As an aside, Symanec Internet Security is also subscription - once the licence expires - you do not have a product at all, as opposed to not receiving updates, but the product still works with old definitions.

By shadders on 20 Feb 2013

Par for the course

Given the article on the lack of take up of W8 and now this Office 2013 shambles. I wonder if Microsoft sat down one day and had a meeting to see how best they could hand it on a plate to Apple.

Wake up Microsoft! Listen to your customers or one day you will have none left to listen too!

By MartinBird on 21 Feb 2013

Adobe are just as bad

Adobe's cs6 creative cloud is just as bad, frankly, its an absolute rip off.

By Mike1412 on 21 Feb 2013


It would be nice if MS did the same. If you cancelled your subscription you could use Office but no longer receive any updates.

As it is if you cancel it goes in to read only mode and so not much use!

By cyberindie on 21 Feb 2013

Adobe are just as bad

Adobe's cs6 creative cloud is just as bad, frankly, its an absolute rip off.

By Mike1412 on 21 Feb 2013

Anti-upgrade practices hitting computer sales.

Once again the long-suffering computer reseller is the one who gets hit hardest by this.

Many of my clients are using very old computers for precisely the reason that it is so painfully difficult to get software working on the replacement as it was on the old one.

This takes it to a new level of obstructiveness, where software cannot even be reinstalled onto a new computer, let alone trasferred with intact settings.

The inability to transfer software is costing the computer industry dearly in terms of lost upgrade sales. It's time this was recognised, and a switch to portable software made.

Face it, if buying a new car meant learning to drive all over again, we'd all be driving vintage models and the motor industry would have gone bust long ago.

By Anteaus on 21 Feb 2013

You never owned it anyway

Software has always been sold as a licence to use rather than a outright purchase that's why they is a EULA or End User Licence Agreement.
If you feel the terms of the licence are too restrictive then don't buy it.
That way Microsoft will not make money and will be forced to change its terms.
However as the bulk of its sales are to business and they have no option but to buy on the current terms MS will not notice the drop in revenue.
The EU and US DOJ are more interested in whether IE or media player is bundled rather than take on the restrictive and unreasonable licensing practices of the likes of Adobe, MS and Apple.

By Lorribot on 21 Feb 2013

I was just doing an online chat with a Microsoft representative

I was trying to get a clearer idea of what their rental plans involve and it came down to this:

Home Premium 365 - you get to install Office on 5 machines for £7.99 a month

Plan P1 - you don't get to install Office at all for £3.90 per user per month

Plan E1 - you don't get to install Office at all for £5.20 per user per month

Plan E3 - you get to install Office on 5 devices per person for £15 per user per month

He explained that they have a variety of plans that cover different business needs.

I explained that I thought plans P1 and E1 are like buying a car without an engine and the MS rep said "thank you for your feedback" which I imagine means he promptly filed my comments in the bin.

By revsorg on 21 Feb 2013


"it's difficult to evaluate equivalent products because there's no direct comparison.

it is. Libre Office....

By arturpio on 21 Feb 2013

R. Mark Clayton

I had to replace the motherboard on my machine after the CPU overheated doing in itself and the board. An earlier version of Office merely required the keys putting in again, not another purchase.

By Mark_Clayton on 21 Feb 2013

Monopolistic arrogance

This is what happens when any company has 90% of the marketplace for a specific need. They do it because who else is going to take customers from them? Nobody. And who pays in the end? Users. And will you vote with your feet? No.

By SwissMac on 22 Feb 2013


I'd like to know how you got a DVD, please share the link or SKU reference. says "There apparently isn't an Office 2013 FPP version at all, and that seems to have caused some consternation". says "However, there's a big change this time: in the US, UK, and other developed markets, those boxed copies won't include a DVD of the software. Microsoft is simply boxing up product codes in familiar packaging for Office 2013 and Office 365, allowing users to go online to download the software. Some emerging markets will still offer DVD versions, but the majority of users will be downloading Office this time around."

By martincowen100 on 22 Feb 2013

And the point is...?

Why would MS do this? It simply restricts the lifespan of the software to the lifespan of a PC. How often do computers die, get stolen or replaced? About 2.5 years? So MS Office is only realistically valid for 2.5 years, then you HAVE TO buy a new version. Or PAY FOR the exact same software again that you still own. I can't see the point of this apart from depending on customers machines dying to boost MS profits. A cheap and slimy move, I'm glad I moved to Google (no lost data, no sync problems, no huge expense - that's all!) and I hope MS die an agonised death wallowing in their own greed.

By Wilbert3 on 25 Feb 2013

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