Microsoft limits Office 2013 in push to promote subscription software

Microsoft gets serious about cloud services by limiting Office 2013 to just one PC. Photo: (Microsoft) Office products

DOTHAN, AL, February 19, 2013 — Microsoft has changed the licensing terms of its new Office 2013 software suite so that you can only use it on one computer. It literally locks into your PC and cannot be transferred to another computer for any reason. That means if you decide to upgrade or change your PC, you have to buy another copy of Office 2013.

Mac users represent a small portion of the Microsoft universe and are not immune from the new policy. On top of the switch to one license per machine, Mac users are now being charged more for the package itself. The cost for a home and student edition has gone from $119.00 to $139.00. To make things even more confusing, Microsoft calls its Mac software “Office for Mac 2011.” The name difference has gone on for a long time and always makes one pause to wonder if the software is out of date or missing features.

The driving force behind all this is that Microsoft wants you to rent software, not buy it or own it. Not that customers get to really own anything now, but Microsoft sees cloud computing as the future and is pushing hard to get everyone to use their cloud-based Office 365. The cloud service itself where data is stored is called SkyDrive.

Cloud computing in the Microsoft world means they keep the software on their server and you only get the bits you need to do your work. It also means keeping your data on their system, whether word processing documents, calendar appointments or e-mail contacts.  

You can work offline, but not for too long because the software will want to log in now and then to verify you are a legitimate client. If you are not near the internet for a while and it can’t verify who you are, your software effectively shuts down and you can’t do anything with your work files. The kids might like that because they could tell teacher that dad didn’t pay the rent on the software – kind of a digital version of “the dog ate my homework.”

Microsoft has never been subtle when it wants you to do something their way. After years of nearly schizophrenic upgrades and changes to Windows, users are finally throwing up their hands in desperation with Windows 8. Once again the entire user interface has been completely changed, this time to favor touch screens and tablet devices. Don’t have a touch screen computer or a tablet? Too bad. Want to stay with Windows 7? Sorry, new PC’s don’t come with that any longer.

There are still alternatives to Microsoft Office. The venerable WordPerfect is still available as part of an office package now offered by Corel, the same company that produces CorelDraw. Corel Office comes in various formats a different prices starting at $49.95 for a single license download version. The full package currently sells for $249 and can be transferred to a different computer.

Google Docs is only available as an online cloud-based service, but it is free. If you are an occasional user and don’t want to spend a lot, this might be the way to go although it does require having an internet connection. Another free package that closely emulates Microsoft Office is Apache OpenOffice. This is open source software, which means developers and designers contribute their time to working on it and supporting it. It is no slouch and definitely worth a look. As of December 2012, OpenOffice had been downloaded by 30 million users.

Microsoft Office 365 is reasonably in line with the way companies and corporations handle system-wide implementation of PC software for employees. Often referred to as enterprise computing, large scale installations usually require employees to attach to the company network system in order to share documents, collaborate on presentations and so on.

As a single home or student user, it is important to remember that Microsoft caters to the big guys first. That is where the serious money is, and it is not always cost effective to design software more to the needs of individual users. Unfortunately some other large software companies such as Adobe have followed this lead with products and pricing geared for the corporate world.

Many people are stuck in the Microsoft world in order to stay compatible with colleagues and clients, but even corporate users are starting to have doubts about the long-term viability of Microsoft products from a cost and support perspective. Apple is once again making some inroads in the corporate world, and more home users are showing willingness to try open source software and simplified cloud applications like Dropbox.

As for Microsoft’s embracing cloud computing, the market will determine if they have chosen wisely or whether this is just another “gee whiz that’s cool” technology bubble.

Sometimes the empire defeats itself and the rebels just have to sit back and wait.

(Get The Backstory and more at Rick’s author blog


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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.


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