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Microsoft about-face: Office 2013 license IS transferable now

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Updated In a reversal of its previously announced policy, Microsoft says it is altering the terms of the retail Office 2013 license to remove the clause that permanently tied each installation of the suite to a single PC.

"Based on customer feedback we have changed the Office 2013 retail license agreement to allow customers to transfer the software from one computer to another," Microsoft's Jevon Fark said in a blog post on Wednesday. "This means customers can transfer Office 2013 to a different computer if their device fails or they get a new one."

Fark says the updated license applies to Office Home and Student 2013, Office Home and Business 2013, Office Professional 2013, and the individual, boxed Office 2013 applications.

Under the original terms of the license, which came to light in February as copies of the suite began shipping to customers, Office 2013 was licensed to the computer it was installed on, not to the user who installed it.

That meant that once installed, the software could never be transferred to any other PC. Customers couldn't even re-install the suite onto a new PC when they upgraded, or if their old computer was damaged.

The license did make an exception for PCs that were damaged while still under the warranty period. But in all other cases, customers were apparently expected to buy a brand-new copy of Office 2013 every time they changed systems – at a cost of between $140 and $400, depending which version they needed.

In a blog post in February, Microsoft's Fark explained that the Office 2013 license terms were the same as those of the Product Key Card (PKC) version of Office 2010, which he said was the version chosen by most Office 2010 customers worldwide.

But critics – this Reg hack included – pointed out that this was just the latest in a series of moves by Redmond seemingly designed to strong-arm customers into moving to its subscription-based Office 365 offering.

Several of the Office 365 subscription levels give customers what are essentially the same applications as the Office 2013 retail edition. But the subscription version of the software can be installed on up to five devices at once and it's fully transferrable – customers are free to activate and deactivate it on different devices as they see fit.

With the new license change, retail Office 2013 customers have been granted more flexibility in how they can install the software, but the new license is still not as liberal as that of Office 365.

Specifically, the retail Office 2013 software can still only be installed on one PC at a time, whereas earlier versions of the suite could be installed on two or even three PCs at once. And customers cannot transfer the software to a new PC more than once every 90 days, except in the case of hardware failure.

Fark says that although the text of the Office 2013 license that comes bundled with the software will have to be updated in a future release before it reflects the new policy, the change is effective immediately.

Customers – including Reg readers – who would like to comment on Microsoft's reversal are apparently encouraged to do so. As Fark writes, "A key ingredient in our formula for success is listening to our customers, and we're grateful for the feedback behind this change in Office licensing. Thank you." ®

Update

Reg reader wrote to ask whether the new license terms apply to OEM copies of Office 2013 that come pre-installed on new PCs. We asked Microsoft, and a spokesman informed us that no, they do not.

The terms for OEM copies remain much the same as the original Office 2013 terms: the software is tied to the hardware it came on, and the license can only be transferred to someone else if you give them the entire PC. 

To be fair, however, these were also the license terms for OEM copies of Office 2010.

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