Microsoft listens to customers on Office 2013 retail licensing

If you’ve been reading the IT media over the last few weeks, you may have caught wind of a storm brewing over a change of licensing rules to retail copies of its Office software. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reporter in Australia, a previously-unannounced change was found in the licensing terms that meant retail copies of Office 2013 were tied to a single machine for life – with no opportunity to move the software to a new piece of hardware.

When challenged, Microsoft’s response was initially confusing. Some sources even stating that there had been no change in licensing rules since the previous Office 2010 edition – something even the uninitiated could see was not true!

A later statement from Microsoft then suggested that retail copies of Office 2013 could be transferred to new hardware only in the event that the original PC died while still under manufacturer’s warranty. A step in the right direction, but still not sufficient to satisfy many, who felt the restriction was unreasonable.

Well, it seems that this time Microsoft has listened. And that has to be praised. A new statement placed on Microsoft’s Office blog (you can read it here) makes it clear that Microsoft has had a change of heart and reverted back to the same licensing rules it applied to Office 2010. Note however, that copies of Office 2013 purchased to-date will still have the original licensing rules stated in-product, but Microsoft has confirmed the licensing revision is effective immediately – so this is a great example of where the usage rights in effect don’t quite match those ‘printed’ on the product.

I think there are a number of lessons to learn here:

1. Customer pressure can work – Microsoft has reacted to customer complaints to rectify what end users perceived as unfair licensing practices.

2. Microsoft is getting better at listening to customers – it’s a small victory, but we should praise Microsoft for reacting positively to customer pressure.

3. Licensing is complex! Effectively, we’ve got two licensing changes that it’s reasonable to expect most people in IT are unaware of. This demonstrates just how complex licensing can be and how professional advice and the right technologies are required to really get a handle on managing entitlements.

Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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