Office 2013 sentenced to death by licensing

Microsoft's new licensing restrictions on Office 2013 - paired with its favorable treatment of Office 365 - are signs of a nasty trend in software sales.

I've documented a few times how I feel Microsoft is attempting to control end-user behavior – from killing the Start button in Windows 8 to blocking used games from working on the Xbox 360 successor – and from what I've read about the end-user license agreement (EULA) for Office 2013, the trend is continuing.

The retail license agreement for Office 2013 locks it to the PC on which you install it forever. If you buy a new PC, you can't reinstall Office 2013. The same applies when reinstalling Windows. If you have to reinstall Windows for whatever reason, that Office 2013 DVD is now a drink coaster.

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This is a change from all previous versions of Office. I used Office 2003 until necessity and an end of support forced me to move to 2010. As you know, Microsoft introduced that pesky activation feature with its predecessor, Office XP.

Now, others have pointed out that this is the policy with OEM pre-installed versions of Office and Windows, but those are typically reserved for business users who have a license agreement with Microsoft that goes beyond a single PC.

Being a relentless tinkerer, I've had to reinstall Windows (and therefore Office) more times than I can count. This led to numerous calls to a support line in which I had to explain that I was not installing it on a second PC, I was just reinstalling on my current PC because of a Windows reinstall.

Retail sales make up a minority of the Office business. Microsoft doesn't habitually report the exact level of retail sales, but we can perhaps make estimates based on the information the company does provide.

Business users account for about 80% of Office sales. For consumers, Office is a bit of overkill, but the company killed off Works years ago. However, there is an alternative for consumers, one that has just launched and conveniently is more financially appealing.

ReadWrite Enterprise notes that Office 365, the online, on-demand subscription-based version of Office, will be available for a whole household (five PCs total) for $99.99, while Office 2013 will cost $139.99. Plus, Microsoft told RW that upgrades would come out immediately on Office 365 while Office 2013 users would have to wait for the features to come in a service pack.

Subscriptions are a nasty trend in the industry, first started by the antivirus guys and now spreading into traditional software. In an attempt to keep Wall Street happy, software firms are looking for ways to keep making you pay instead of buying it once.

A lot of people resent this, and rightfully so. Ars Technica asked if this would finally push people over to Google Docs. I'm a little cynical on consumer habits. Google Docs and other Office alternatives have been around forever and still have marginal user levels. Far too often I've seen outrages that demand a revolt, and people instead just grumble, roll over, and pay up.

In my case, it means I'll be using Office 2010 for a very, very long time. I got 10 years out of Office 2003. No rush on my part.

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