Microsoft Backtracks on Office 2013, Restores PC Transfer Rights

Microsoft on Wednesday announced a revised policy that would lift the transfer restriction on Office 2013 retail perpetual licenses.

The new policy would let users transfer Office 2013 software to another PC every 90 days, or even transfer the software to another person if they are the original buyer and remove the software from their system. The new policy applies to retail perpetual licenses of "Office Home and Student 2013, Office Home and Business 2013, Office Professional 2013 and the standalone Office 2013 applications."

The revised licensing language will arrive with future releases of the product, but the new policy is "effective immediately," according to Microsoft's announcement. The text of the revised agreement was described as follows in the blog post:

Updated transferability provision to the Retail License Terms of the Software License Agreement for Microsoft Office 2013 Desktop Application Software:

Can I transfer the software to another computer or user? You may transfer the software to another computer that belongs to you, but not more than one time every 90 days (except due to hardware failure, in which case you may transfer sooner). If you transfer the software to another computer, that other computer becomes the "licensed computer." You may also transfer the software (together with the license) to a computer owned by someone else if a) you are the first licensed user of the software and b) the new user agrees to the terms of this agreement before the transfer. Any time you transfer the software to a new computer, you must remove the software from the prior computer and you may not retain any copies.

The policy reversal comes about two weeks after Microsoft had explained the transfer restriction policy, which had limited Office 2013 software transfers to another machine only in the event of equipment failure, and provided that the PC was still covered under warrantee. That ability to move the software to another machine apparently is still in place, so that users still have the rights to move the software earlier than 90 days in cases of PC failures. The failed machine doesn't need to be covered under warrantee in such cases, however, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

"I am now able to confirm that the hardware does not need to be under warrantee," the Microsoft spokesperson explained via e-mail. "If a customer is unfortunate enough encounter this scenario, they can call Microsoft support for assistance to help them get going on a new computer."

The original Office 2013 transfer restriction, when it was initially discovered, was sometimes described in press accounts as a sort of sneaky hobbling of Microsoft's perpetual-license model for Office. It meant that Office 2013 users would be faced with buying a fresh copy of the productivity software each time they switched out their hardware. Microsoft initiated a new Office 365 subscription-based model for consumers in late January that has a freer transfer rights policy, in contrast to the perpetual-license model. This subscription-based model entails recurring fees, but Office file editing rights go away when the Office 365 subscription ends. In contrast, Office 2013 perpetual licensees never lose their rights to use the software.

It's thought that Microsoft hopes to drive users more toward the recurring-fee subscription model versus the more traditional perpetual-license model -- both for Office and other applications it sells. However, at least both options are now available.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.