IT Directors: Keep an eye on those iPads with Office

IT Directors: Keep an eye on those iPads with Office

Summary: Microsoft unleashed Office for iPad, and owners of Apple's tablet have been installing it in great numbers. But if they bring them to work, make sure they're not used for company business.


Office for iPad is a great solution for those wanting to do real work on the tablet. Microsoft has done a great job making Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for the iPad. That's a good thing, but IT directors better think long and hard about the implications.

Excel iPad
(Image: Microsoft)

The Office apps are being downloaded in great numbers by iPad owners. They're free, so why not? Some of those downloaders, perhaps a lot of them, are buying that $99.99 Office 365 subscription to fully unlock the editing features of the apps. Perhaps they want to allow their kids to use the apps to do homework, or maybe they want to do home projects. That's well and good, but if they bring their iPads to work in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program, better make sure it's not used for work.

CNET Video: Microsoft Office for iPad in action

The subscription that's being pitched with Office for iPad to unlock all the features is the Office 365 Home Premium subscription for $99.99. That's a reasonably priced option to use Microsoft Office, including the iPad apps. What corporate managers should remember is the subscription that workers may be paying for with the iPad apps prohibits commercial use. Microsoft's warning is quite clear about such use.

"Not for use in any commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities, or by any government organization."

This is not new, it's been that way since Microsoft first launched this subscription plan. What's new is availability of Office on the iPad. Those iPads you see carried down the halls or sitting in cubicles probably now have apps that require a proper business license to use at work. This is particularly pertinent to those iPads coming to the office as part of a BYOD program. 

See also: Office for iPad: One of Microsoft's finest moments | What CIOs need to know about Office 365 Home Premium

Some IT directors may have anticipated this and, if so, good for you. You've likely got your Office licenses in a row and informed your workers to activate Word, Excel, and Powerpoint on the iPad with one of those license plans. If not, that's what you'd better do, and soon. Otherwise your workers will be using Office for company business, perhaps while using a non-commercial license. 

If you're non-compliant, it's unlikely jackbooted Compliance Police will kick down cubicle walls to catch you. You probably would never be caught.

But "not getting caught" is not a foundation for a responsible compliance plan. Consider this a friendly reminder that if you haven't gotten the Office license situaton under control, you'd better do so soon. Odds are you're going to have a few iPads with Office at work, and that requires certain licenses the tablet owners almost certainly don't have.

Don't miss ZDNet's outstanding coverage of Office for iPad:

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Microsoft, Tablets, Bring Your Own Device

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  • What people should be asking is...

    Why does it matter to Microsoft what I use the application(s) for? If I license software, then Microsoft should not dictate what I can and cannot do with it. If the licensee is writing a proposal with Word that could land him/her a multimillion dollar deal or it's some kid doing their homework project, it shouldn't matter to Microsoft.

    Microsoft is greedy today as they've always been. If your company already has Office licenses for the desktop, then BOYD should be covered. Make as much money as you can and screw what Microsoft has to say about it.
    • Yep

      This is exactly why I've switched to Libre Office... No crazy license limitations and no subscription model.

      Maybe it isn't as intuitive as Office 20xx but, it does everything I need and is written using OpenCL features so my GPU makes it arguably the fastest Office Suite on the planet.
      • Either/Or

        Either you need the full power of MS Office due to enterprise/student usage or you simply need something like Google Docs. All those big open source clones are just way more than the typical private user needs.

        I've used them, mostly within Linux, and they are OK but I just can't see the use case.
        Rann Xeroxx
    • You do realize that the home license is meant

      for personal use only, and is significantly cheaper than a commercial professional license. You get a huge discount by buying a personal home version of office, but you also agree to only use it for personal use. You may have paid, but you didn't pay the full commercial rate for your home license. Therefore, you can't use your personal license for commercial work. You in fact didn't pay for that right.
      Sam Wagner
      • This is based on principal

        You do not sell the same product at different prices based on usage. You can do so based on features. Example home users wouldn't require external data source bindings. So cut those features from the home version. But you cannot tell somebody to pay more for the exact product depending on what they plan on doing with it.

        I completely understand Microsoft's licensing methodology. All I'm saying is that I completely disagree with it.

        If you're buying some teacups for example, would you be fine with the manufacturer stating that you'd have to pay more for the teacups if you're going to use it for commercial purposes?
        • Plenty of free for private use software out there

          Its all over the place. If you are a private individual or a non-profit, you can use a software for free but if you are using it for business than you have to pay. Same concept as MS charging less for their apps. Heck, plenty of hardware vendors give education lower cost equipment.
          Rann Xeroxx
    • What people should really be asking is...

      Why is business even allowing people to use their own personal software and hardware to do company work?

      This doesn't become an issue if the company purchases, controls and maintains the tablets and software on them.
      • You're living in the last century

        For modern IT, it has less to do with control and more to do with empowering or just getting out of the way. Just had a meeting this week and we discussed how in the next 5 years we would make BYOD computers a reality. Just like our phones we would give employees a stipend and let them buy what they want as long as it can either connect to our VDIs or virtualized apps.

        Heck, the bottom line is not even saving money on device cost, its making employees happy to be able to attract talent without huge salaries.
        Rann Xeroxx
  • Not a worry.

    A click through agreement executed by an individual using his own dime does not induce any liability to the employer. IT managers need not worry. If you have any concerns talk to your council. They will laugh at you. I'd love to see one of these go to court, just for the laugh.
  • Complicated Licensing is MS's Downfall

    This home versus work licensing is only the tip of the iceberg. Trying to figure out when and where you need CAL's or exactly what your servers are licensed for is worse than the tax code. Because we can't really be sure what we are licensed for, my SMB does not use Windows or other MS products except where they are absolutely necessary. Call center, ~100 seats going to linux, data entry going to linux, marketing is already on Mac. All file and print servers on linux. Basically only finance and accounting staying on Windows and certain server loads where the only or best software available is Windows.
    • Agreed

      A business should not have to hire an attorney to figure out if their licensing is legal due to a vendor's complicated licensing plan.
  • And no one uses a personal license to work from home ever?

    I'm sure there truck loads of people doing this. I've read several comments from people on here who have got 365 subs to do just that.
  • MS usual practise.

    Give with one hand...

    And take twice with the other.
    • jessepollard usual practise.

      cry and moan about anything MS related...
  • Office alternatives have been available for years

    With the space left by Microsoft's absence other developer have come in and created iPad apps for productivity. Sure you have to export to a Office format, but some of these alternatives are free or a pay once use forever pricing model.

    Sorry, but Microsoft sat around for years and the gaps were filled in. "Real work" has been done on the iPad for years.
    • Yep

      Pages, king soft Office, QuickOffice, and several others handle these functions just fine for tablets.
  • How does a business achieve licensing compliance?

    If my business already has a Microsoft Windows license for every PC/Laptop it uses and a Microsoft Office license for the total number of individuals working for the business (I think that is how it is stated on the enterprise agreement). What do I need to add to my businesses enterprise agreement for those individuals who already have a licensed copy of Microsoft Office on their PC and have an iPad as a portable companion device? (just for clarity the business does not have any Office365 licenses at the moment).

    • My guess is MS will tell you to get an Office 365 subscription

      The problem with that is that it assumes you will always be using the most recent version of Office for Windows or Mac. Most enterprises deliberately stay 1 version behind or wait a year or two before rolling out the latest version in order to make sure it is compatible with their customizations and legacy applications still in use.
    • If you buy Keynote for your Mac...

      ...does that give you Keynote for your iPad? No, they are different products.

      Most business Office license outside 365 are seat licenses. They hit against either MS or a internal KVM server that knows how many seats you have compared to how many PCs are reporting an install. If they can't heartbeat once a month then they go into reduced functionality mode.

      Don't even get into Windows VDI connection licensing, that is a convoluted mess.
      Rann Xeroxx
  • This is what gets confusing about MS' licensing

    So what are people who are legally using Office at work under an enterprise license who want to download Office for iPad so that they can read and make light edits to their e-mail attachments supposed to do? Enterprise licenses aren't available for individual users, and some companies are better than others at keeping BYOD policies and practices up-to-date, so even if they have valid Office licenses at work doesn't mean they have Office 365 logins available to them.

    Microsoft even lets employers offer $10 licenses to full copies of Office Pro to their employees while they are employed with them. What exactly do they think people are doing with Access on their home PCs with those licenses? Tracking their wine collections?

    There are other legitimate reasons why IT departments need to keep up, though. For instance, for security reasons, in many industries (such as health or financial services) it's important that remote wipe be activated, and that work files aren't saved to the consumer version of OneDrive. Perhaps that's why Microsoft also spent a lot of time promoting Enterprise Mobility Suite. Unfortunately, many IT departments still operate under the "old" paradigm and change can be slow. People don't want to wait months or even years for "official" programs to roll out, particularly when they are expected to be "connected" and available for productive activities at all times.