How much do you have to pay to use Office 2013 RT for work?

How much do you have to pay to use Office 2013 RT for work?

Summary: Yes, you can legally use Office 2013 to do real work on a Windows RT device like Microsoft's Surface. But be prepared to pay extra. I've got details, including the monthly price tag.

TOPICS: Software, Microsoft

p>Can you use Office 2013 to do real work on a Windows RT device like Microsoft’s Surface or Dell’s XPS 10?

Of course you can. But you might have to pay extra if you want to stay within the letter of the Office license agreement.

Windows RT (on all devices, not just Microsoft’s Surface) includes four Microsoft Office programs that have been recompiled to run on ARM-based systems. These versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote include most of the features of their counterparts in the Intel versions of Office 2013. (A list of missing features is here.)

You can get an awful lot of business-related tasks done, like writing legal briefs and sales pitches and calculating budgets and timelines. You’re most likely to be successful if you’re an individual or a small business that doesn’t rely on custom templates or add-ins (corporate documents have bigger problems if they rely on macros or other custom code not supported on Windows RT).

So, yes, you can use Office to create and edit all sorts of work-related documents. But the bigger issue is whether you can legally do all that businessy stuff, given this prohibitive language in the Windows RT license agreement:

Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote (“Office apps”) are Windows apps included with Windows RT. Office apps are governed by some additional terms and are part of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT or Microsoft Office 2013 RT. Office apps are licensed to you for your personal, non-commercial use, and you may not use them for any non-profit, commercial, or other revenue generating activity. [emphasis added]  

That’s the section that has raised a mild panic among early buyers of Surface devices. My colleague Mary Jo Foley already revealed that a solution was possible. In this post, I have more details, including specifics from the respective license agreements.

For some Surface users, the issue is completely irrelevant.

If you are a student using a Microsoft Surface or another Windows RT-based device, you can use all of those programs for your schoolwork. Under those same terms, you can use the software for personal documents (letters to the editor, holiday newsletters) and non-revenue-generating work (church newsletters, flyers for your homeowners’ association).

The same restrictive terms hold true for the boxed editions of Office 2010 and 2013 Home and Student. No revenue-generating activity is allowed.

So how do you get around those restrictions? By paying extra for a commercial use license. A Microsoft FAQ provides the general answer:

Can I use Office Home & Student 2013 RT for work or business?

As sold, Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview and the final edition are not designed for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities. However, organizations who purchase commercial use rights or have a commercial license to Office 2013 suites can use Office Home & Student 2013 RT for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities... [emphasis added]

And where do you buy those rights? They come along for the ride if you acquire a volume license for Office or if you subscribe to a business edition of Microsoft’s Office 365 service, which is now in trial.

If your organization buys Office as part of a Volume License program, you are specifically exempted from that portion of the Office 2013 RT license. Microsoft’s October 2012 Product Use Rights agreement includes this new section, headed “Office Home & Student 2013 RT Commercial Use Rights”:

We introduced a new license to add commercial use rights under separately acquired licenses for Office Home & Student 2013 RT.  These rights are also available to customers licensed for Office Professional Plus 2013 and Office Standard 2013 under their Office license (for the primary user of the device to which the license is assigned) and Office Professional Plus Subscriptions.

Later in the document, the description of rights gets more specific, with a list of five additional terms, including these three extremely relevant items:

You must assign each license to a single device.

This license modifies your right to use the software under a separately acquired Office Home & Student 2013 RT license, by waiving the prohibition against commercial use of the software. [emphasis added]

If you acquire Office Home & Student 2013 RT commercial use rights under an Office Professional Plus or Office Standard license, you may permit the primary user of the Licensed Device to use a separately licensed copy of Office Home & Student 2013 RT as provided here.

A Volume License agreement is the only way to buy Office Professional Plus or Office Standard. You don't have to be a big business to purchase a volume license, either; you can buy a single volume license for either product.

I used the Microsoft License Advisor to put together a quote for perpetual Office licenses for a hypothetical office: I got a price of $373 for Office Standard and $508 for Office Professional Plus. I’m sure you could shop around and get a better price, but there’s the baseline. (Enterprise customers get substantial discounts, as do Academic and Government customers.) If you squeeze four or five years of use out of an Office version, that’s a fully amortized cost of roughly $5 to $10 a month just for the software.

Currently, the Office Professional Plus subscription offered through Office 365 is $20 per user per month, which includes Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync accounts as well.

If your organization pays for your copy of Office using any of those Volume License or subscription options, you are exempted from the Office 2013 licensing restrictions. Get to work.

But what if you're not a volume license customer? In that case, you need a commercial license to a version of Office 2013—which isn’t on sale yet. But the Microsoft Office Pre-Launch Offer now being offered to Office 2010 buyers makes it clear what you’ll get with an Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription:

Office 365 Small Business Premium combines the most up-to-date Office applications plus professional cloud-based email and calendars, a public web site, high definition video conferencing, file sharing, and robust security features. The trial includes up to five (5) commercial user licenses. If you would like to add additional users beyond the 5 licenses included with this offer during the trial period, you will need to convert your free trial to a paid subscription for all users.

In the current Office 365 trial, of which I am a member, the number of included users is now 10. (Don't confuse that with the number of devices on which each user is allowed to use Office, which is five.)

Office 365 subscriptions, as I’ve noted earlier, are sold on a per-user basis. For $150 annually, your Office 365 accounts includes commercial use rights that also apply to up to five devices, one of which can be a Surface or other Windows RT device. You also get a very good Exchange account (secure email and calendaring) and SharePoint storage, both of which are valuable. The total monthly cost is $12.50.

If all you want is Word, that might be too steep a price to pay. But the full selection of software that comes with an Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription (including Outlook and Lync) is equal to what’s in that $508 Pro Plus package. And the enterprise-grade email with support for Exchange ActiveSync on any device is easily worth $5 a month, in my estimation.

Of course, if you're a small proprietor and you use Office for casual use that occasionally involves business, the Microsoft licensing police are not going to break down your door. In addition, IT pros can make a strong case, at least in these early days of the Office 2013 product cycle, that you are well within your rights to evaluate these new programs using a TechNet license.

Microsoft’s message here is pretty clear. If you’re using Office for business, you have to pay more. If you’re using it for personal and school reasons, you get to pay less. But the per-user licensing softens the blow considerably if you own multiple devices. If you have a desktop PC, a Mac, a notebook, and a tablet, you don’t have to worry about buying licenses for each one.

Boxed editions of Office 2013 will be sold using a per-device licensing model, and I haven’t been able to track down those license agreements yet.

I did, however, find this matrix (which I've abbreviated slightly) on Microsoft's pre-launch offer page for Office 2013. If you buy a retail business version of Office 2010 today, you get a free upgrade to an equivalent Office 2013 edition. Interestingly, the matrix specifically mentions a "commercial license":


Now go back and reread the language in that FAQ page: "organizations who ... have a commercial license to Office 2013 suites can use Office Home & Student 2013 RT for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities."

I’m not holding my breath that the Home and Business version, which includes commercial-use rights, will specifically mention rights for use with Office 2013 RT. (Please surprise me, Microsoft.) But I think it's a fair and reasonable interpretation that the "commercial license" you acquire with Office Home & Business or Office Professional is sufficient to allow business use of Office 2013 RT.

Topics: Software, Microsoft

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  • Here is a tip for potential Office365 users.

    If you want to evaluate hosted exchange email - do not use the P1 trial. Instead, download the E1 trial as the basic hosted email is linked the Enterprise servers and if you use P1 you cannot downgrade without creating a whole new account, changing dns settings and then transferring everything over. How do I know this? Trial and error.
    • Wow

      Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)
      • Silly

        I don't think you'd find anyone so silly on this site....oh hang on.
        roger andre
  • Recycled bits, same situation, different day, only you pay--again

    This is just fine Ed. But, you see, the software routines keep getting recycled. The bits are the same ones which you already paid for, but Microsoft is quite willing and happy to assist you in paying for them again.

    I find this quite troubling.

    Folks, please consider your alternatives. Step off of the license treadmill today.

    Why not consider, at bare minimum, open source?

    Why not indeed.

    The pricing is quite reasonable for LibreOffice for Windows: $0.00

    It's yours to use as you see fit with no licensing restrictions like you have with Office.

    Isn't it hard enough to manage your affairs without paying for the same software over and over and over again?

    Give it some serious thought. And if you really think about it, what I am saying is true. That's what the GPL license is all about and you can be just as productive using open source tools as you can with proprietary Microsoft.

    Give Ubuntu Linux your consideration today and be productive for free. You'll never spend money on recycled bits.

    Ubuntu Linux: The safest operating system on the Planet.

    I stake my reputation on it.

    Thank you Ed.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz + Your Linux Advocate
    • How would you say LibreOffice/Ubuntu combo

      compares with Google Docs/Chromebook combo?
      Michael Alan Goff
    • How would you say LibreOffice/Ubuntu combo

      compares with QuickOffice Pro/Android combo?

      P.S. Since LibreOffice is not yet available for Android.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Yesssss and

      what is your reputation???

      Most of what you write is correct but not all.

      The MS model is good for most businesses because they require a near consistent interface (model) to work with, be-it server, o/s or productivity s/w.

      I am sure you know and understand that businesses have to pay a price to have your proposed alternatives with support. Only the individual gains from your model.

      what currency do you quote? ;)
      • If they require a consistent interface

        They wouldn't be using Windows RT with Office 2013.

        Either LibreOffice or Google Docs have both proven to be more consistent with their interface than Microsoft Office.
        Michael Alan Goff
        • EXCUSE ME

          Google Docs (original) and now incorporated into Google Drive has had so many changes over the many (yes many) iterations it does not resemble the beginning..

          I am a fan of change for the good of change especially the productivity part.

          I am also a big fan of the cloud.
          Go anywhere, any time and any computer to view/do my stuff is productive..

          it will take awhile to settle it down to a common activity in life for all..

          the standard consumer has this down to pat already with the way they use tablets now.
          • Yes, there have been some changes

            But I would contest that there haven't been as many huge changes in the Google Docs UI when compared to the Office 2010/2013 change.

            They are catering to a touch based audience, after all.
            Michael Alan Goff
      • Need for suport!

        this is a recurrent argument coming from MS Office proponents, that if you are in business, you need support. In reality, the true is that with any well written software you don't need support. C'mon, why you need to be "supported" to write a letter? or build a presentation?
        • A requirement?

          This is not an requirement, but an excuse.

          Unfortunately, most business environments are designed this way, you need to be "insured", that is... pay "our guys" ... whatever they ask. Or, you are not licensed to do business etc.

          Or so people are conditioned to believe.
    • Thanks for your suggestion.

      Hi Dietrich,

      For some people, Ubuntu with LibreOffice may be a good choice (especially if you have little disposable income or don't need/use office a lot.) And certainly, it's not as if the whole office is being re-written with each consecutive version, only really being gradually refined.

      Unfortunately, LibreOffice can't really compete on features with Microsoft Office. LibreOffice may offer infinite features per dollar, though it's not as if everybody's time is free. In a business scenario, especially, if Microsoft Office can save a user an hours or more of time each month because of a particular feature or better design than LibreOffice, it's probably worth paying for it.
      For a very causal home user, maybe it isn't -- though I think many home users, too, will rather pay in money than pay in time using a not-as-full featured, somewhat less advanced office suite.
      • Great suggestion Dietrich, save some money

        “compete on features with Microsoft Office”
        xnederlandx, Sure it can and does each day compete on features with Microsoft Office.

        Fact is not everyone uses all the features of MS Office, that's already been said.

        Xnederlandx sounds like doubt in that comment; “it's probably worth paying for it.”

        There is not one home user that can claim using off of MS Office functions, none.
        • RE: Great suggestion Dietrich, save some money

          Not really:

          1. LibreOffice hasn't yet been ported to Windows RT (still waiting on the Android port)

          2. Ubuntu won't be ready to compete with Windows RT, Android and iOS until Canonical releases version 14.04 which is still well over a year away

          As for home users, this blog article is about business use of Office RT.

          If you're going to push open-source alternatives to Office RT and Windows RT, you might want to restrict your recommendations to competing products that are currently available.

          For your reading pleasure:

          "Ubuntu on phones, tablets, TV’s and smart screens everywhere

          Rabid Howler Monkey
      • little knowledge goes a long way

        You need to really try OpenOffice/LibreOffice before you make statements like this. For some tasks, they are more functional than Microsoft's Office and there is no wasted time etc.

        Plus, those Office suites are available practically on any platform today, which cannot be said for Microsoft's software. This is especially important if you do *business*, because you are not tied to Microsoft's software experiments.

        For me, I don't care whether these suites are free: I do care however, that they are multiplatform and *everywhere* work exactly the same way!
    • They tried it at one time in our offices.

      but found it totally inadequate for day to day business. It might be a good choice for simple home based things but there were always problems with it at our work where our IT department had to keep finding work arounds for alot of things they took for granted with MS Office. So they happily switched backed to MS Office.

      As for Linux, it was determined early on it wasn't up to the task they needed from our computer systems in our offices. It couldn't run the programs we work with everyday.
  • Office 2010 upgrade question

    One current offer is 'buy Office 2010 Home and Student (3 PC's) now - get a single 2013 license when that product is released'.
    I'd like to know what happens to the three 2010 installs - are they forfeit after the single upgrade?
    • No more multi-license packs

      If you chose to redeem the upgrade (you don't have to) you would be able to maintain all your installations by choosing the Office 365 Home Premium 1-year subscription, which covers five users.

      There are no multiple-license offers in Office 2013. If you purchased a three-user pack of 2010 expecting to use all three as perpetual licenses, you would be crazy to use that upgrade.

      Note that single-user copies of Office Home and Student 2010 are available at lower costs than the three-license packs.
      Ed Bott
  • Holy Moly

    Microsoft has more than muddled the waters this time around. I favour a break from the past with operating systems and applications but this may take awhile to settle. Windows 8 may not be a total break but that is what people are seeing. The judicial use of the cloud is a good break from the past but scares the bejeesus out of many who see security as important.

    If you sit back and look at the licensing it is simple enough and most (if not all) businesses will get the picture quickly with the help of their consultants. Even so it would be good to know what small businesses will pay over the next four to five years compared to the past time slot. Other question will be if productivity will be increased by the use of the cloud option. Time will tell.

    What currency are those prices you quote? I went to buy a surface W-RT which is only available online and listed at US$499 and found out that AU has to pay a premium price of AU$599 which converts to US$622.72 with the current Xchange rate. Being the “Lucky Country” we are has the disastrous effect of invoking jealousy (greed) with Microsoft and others like Apple.

    Might be time to muddle the water a bit more and try out some alternatives.