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Word’s licensing terms are different, and you care. Here’s why…

February 18, 2013

Microsoft Word is the tool most writers use to ply their craft. You buy it (probably), install it, and you’re good to go, right?

Not so much any more. Starting with Office 2013, Microsoft seems to be pushing people toward a subscription model, using Office 365, which gives you access to the same software you get with Office 2013, but on up to five devices. Office 2013 costs $139.99 for the Home and Student edition, which includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and One Note. If you want to add Outlook, you have to upgrade to Home and Business, which costs $219.99. If you want to add Access and Publisher, be prepared to shell out $399.99.

But here’s the catch–the software is tied to that PC forever. In other words, if you decide to follow uncle Ernie and drink heavily while you write, and you spill a fifth of Scotch on your laptop and ruin it, you have to buy the software again. You cannot transfer it from one computer to another.

There are two reasons for this licensing restriction:

  • According to some estimates, as many as a third of Office users don’t have legally licensed copies, depriving Microsoft of a lot of revenue. Sure, Microsoft doesn’t exactly need the money, but neither does JK Rowling. Still, copied a mess of her e-books and made them available for nothing, you’re stealing. It doesn’t matter that she’s the richest woman in the UK.

JK Rowling will sic dementors on you. Microsoft just wants you to subscribe to their software.

  • Microsoft is trying to push its Office users to a subscription basis. You can subscribe to Office 365 for $99 per year, and get access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher, Access, and Outlook on as many as five devices. For the cost of that subscription, you always get the most current updates and upgrades to new versions. Techies call it software as a subscription (SAAS), or software in the cloud.

Which makes sense for me?

Microsoft Office 2013 makes sense if:

  • You have a relatively new computer and you don’t intend to get a new computer any time soon.
  • You have only one or two people using Office.
  • You don’t care if you get the latest updates the minute they come out, or the latest upgrades ever.
  • You can get Office software through your place of work for $10, as some people do.

Microsoft Office 365 makes sense if:

  • You work on multiple laptops or your family has enough users to take advantage of the five-computer term for licensing.
  • Your computer is older or unstable, and you may wind up replacing it soon.
  • You want to use the extra applications (Access, Outlook, and Publisher).

You also have the following options:

  • Stay with your current version of Microsoft Office.
  • Use the light version that comes free on most laptops.
  • Find an open-source office suite, such as Apache OpenOffice.
  • Go to a tablet and use apps, such as QuickOffice or Apple’s iWork. Pages, the Apple iWork equivalent. For your Mac, you can buy it for $19.99. If you have a mobile device, an iPad or iPhone, it’s $9.99.

No matter what you choose, the world is changing when it comes to buying word processors. You need to assess your needs before you pull the trigger on a purchase.

  1. February 18, 2013 10:22 pm

    I’ve used Apache Open Office for several years and on several different PCs. I haven’t used MS Office in years, I take it off my new PCs. Open Office is free and offers features MS Office didn’t, such as export as PDF. I set the “save” to .doc as default instead of the Open Office file, works great. Some people don’t care for it, but I have had no problems. A small learning curve, but well worth the effort.

  2. February 19, 2013 9:00 am

    It might prove to be a benefit to Microsoft to go that route. Adobe is doing it for their products. The people who want the CD are no different than people who want their hard copy reports. Soon, everything will be subscription based, in the cloud, and more efficient/cost effective.


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