Microsoft Office for Windows RT: How to move to a commercial-use license

Microsoft Office for Windows RT: How to move to a commercial-use license

Summary: Microsoft's Office Home & Student 2013 RT, which is included for free with Windows-on-ARM devices, can be upgraded to a commercial-rights-usage license. Here's how.


Some wording in the fine print of the Microsoft Surface 2013 pre-order page, which went live on October 16, set off alarm bells for some users who are considering use the tablet/PC devices at work.

As we've known for a while, Windows RT devices, including Surface RT, will include a preview version of Office Home & Student 2013 RT, which will be upgradable to the final via Windows Update in early November. What many of us didn't fully realize when we first noted this was that the Home & Student RT version of Office isn't licensed for commercial use.

This version of Office -- which includes ARM versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote only, is "not for use in commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities. Commercial license options available (sold separately)."

What are these mysterious "commercial license options" about which Microsoft officials haven't officially spoken?

Twitter to the rescue! Thanks to one of my Twitter buds, @steveymacjr, found this Microsoft slide:

officeupgradefor RT

What this means is users who purchase Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office Midsize Business or Office 365 Enterprise -- i.e., one of the "New Office" deliverables coming in November; Office Standard/Professional Plus 2013; or have a volume licensing contract with Microsoft with commercial-use license coverage are able to use Office Home & Student 2013 RT devices at work with no problem. Note: There is not a different/more fully featured Office 2013 RT to which you can or should upgrade if you want to use a Office RT commercially. You need to have one of the aforementioned versions Office which include commercial-license coverage for a set number of PCs/tablets -- including those running Windows RT/Office RT .

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed this was the case in an e-mailed statement:

"While Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview and the final edition are not designed for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities as sold, organizations do have options for using the applications commercially – including purchasing commercial use rights or licensing any edition of the new Office with commercial use rights.”

The Office 2013 RT apps are very similar to, but not exactly the same as their Office 2013 counterparts, as they had to be built to run on ARM. They were built on the same code base as "regular" Office, but the RT apps had to be tweaked to meet the security and battery-life stipulations of ARM-based hardware.

Topics: Collaboration, Cloud, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Tablets, PCs, Windows, SMBs


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Foot, meet gun.

    By clinging on to their stupid outdated ways of thinking, Microsoft are risking their entire business for some short term revenue. The end user already has the software in their hands. Why on earth would you restrict how useful that software should be to them?
    • iWork

      How much is it again?

      *Just saying people will bring this up, so best be ready for an answer.
      • non factor

        Most will ignore this. Do you honestly think they will go on a head hunt and chance destroying an eco-system they wish to build? Would be foolish.
      • Good question

        Each of the iWork components is sold separately (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) and each costs $9.99 for the iPad. If you never use spreadsheets (I don't), you don't have to buy Numbers, for example. Someone who doesn't want/need presentation software could not buy Keynote etc. It's up to you how much you spend, so with iWork for the iPad it's $10 to $30.
        No restrictions on commercial use.

        Now imagine, someone who needs decent word processor for use on the road. Their better choice is still the iPad: right out of the box, with an $10 purchase of Pages and if you are keyboard fan, about $70 more for that. No need to purchase any software from Microsoft. No (recurring) volume licenses, no fuss.
        You could even get the smallest, 16GB wifi+4G iPad -- and have connectivity all over. You can hardly type more than 16GB of text, can you? :)

        I am amazed of how short sighted Microsoft are. It's 2012 already, what are they thinking?
        • And yet...

          "No need to purchase any software from Microsoft"

          That's right. You get a much more advanced Office suite free when you purchase a Surface Tablet. Tell me how this leaves you worse off than under an iPad (where you are paying $30 extra for a poorer alternative to Office).

          "You could even get the smallest, 16GB wifi+4G iPad -- and have connectivity all over."
          You can still do that on a WiFi enabled tablet (ipad or surface) by tethering it to your smartphone. Works out a hell of a lot cheaper than getting a 4G tablet (extra cost for the tablet + another contract with the cellular provider).

          "You can hardly type more than 16GB of text, can you? :)"
          If you typed for your whole life, you still wouldn't be able to come anywhere near 16GB of text. So I am not sure what your point is here.

          The most expensive WiFi only Tablet is still cheaper than the most expensive WiFi only iPad (with the Keyboard accessory). Plus any Metro apps written now will work for Windows RT. And don't harp about legacy apps (you can't run OS X legacy apps on an iPad as well).

          Try to bring some balance and for once be happy that there will be decent competition to an iPad. This may well spur Apple to be more "innovative" with their next release instead of just increasing the resolution.
          Kunal Nanda
          • You don't get it...

            Dude you just don't get it. It's not even really the price, its the complexity. A user will see this and ask about it, then it gets explained and it goes over their head and they just say ok screw that I am just gonna get the iPad...
        • @danbi,

          I agree with your assessment on Pages for the iPad and use it all the time. it's a great program and will export as a MS Word doc if you choose to. My confusion here though is at The Student Home and Office version.

          I was under the impression that this is, and has always been for non-commercial use.

          Mary-Jo, can you help out here?

    • You are exactly right...

      ... This is the kind of thinking that helped sink DEC; licensing as an artifact from the Bizarro world. Riddle me this Batman; if I write a paper on my student edition, and then post it on my blog, which gets enough hits that I get some ad revenue, am I out of bounds? Do I have to have a crystal ball carried by my legion of lawyers to use the software? I like MS, but really guys, get a grip. You put some productivity software on my Surface to help convince me to buy it. Let me just use it, willya?
      • It is an honor system

        Just use the software without sweating it. IF you end up making money in some way just remember who helped you out (Microsoft) and go buy a license... problem solved. This is how they have been running FOREVER. They do not lock down their software even though they easily could. They give you the flexibility you need and expect you to be honest and pay for the license when the time comes.
    • Software.....

      Since Microsoft owns the software, and the user bought the right to USE the software, I do believe that Microsoft has the right to do this. Then again. Don't like the policy (policies), don't touch/buy the junk.
    • Microsoft arrogance...

      Well said, Microsoft is always doing something like this making things so complicated to understand that users simply just choose to either ignore the licensing altogether, or just choose to use something else like Apple which btw doesn't require any licensing on anything they sell. None, you never have to worry about it with Apple, while they do impose licensing restrictions on number of computers, which they are pretty liberal about they don't require keys, extra purchases for business, nothing. If you want to use it in business, find by them...
    • very true...

      MS has changed its ways and image in many new ways... If anyone out there is listening, you have got to change this attitude towards stupid licensing policies as well.. I am definitely not against selling good Software at a price. But anyone who reads this will think of it as wierd.

      "are not designed for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities as sold", then what the hell are they sold/built-in for in these devices. For giving presentations to your family!!! :-)
  • Many People Will Just Ignore this and use the software anyway

    Unless you really have to do something to "use" the software, people will buy the device and use it anyway they want. I seriously doubt "consumers" will care much about "what" they may or may not do with the software. Many people will not even realize they are doing something wrong and those that do will mostly not care. Maybe companies will bother to buy a license, but the rest probably will not give a flying f!ck.
    • Exactly...

      They cant tell what a sales rep is doing with their tablet out in the field....
    • I agree, most people will not have to worry about it, but...

      more and more people are bringing their personal devices to work as part of BYOD. This use DOES expose the company to lawsuits. So the user will be forced to buy a commercial use license or be banned from using the device at work.
      • How does it work with iOS devices

        Honestly don't know - I use an iPhone as part of a BYOD setup - does my company have to pay additional?
        Harlon Katz
        • No, no such weird licenses with iOS

          Apple licenses their software as is. You use it for whatever purpose you desire, commercial or not.

          Apple's attitude is simple: This is our hardware/software. It has this price. None of this negotiable. Take it or leave it.
          Perhaps, this is their recipe for success.
          • Microsoft CAL licenses required...

            You don't have to pay Apple for commercial licenses, but Microsoft requires businesses to purchase client access licenses (CALs) from them for every iOS or Android device that connects to an Exchange server. The rules are complicated and there are companies whose entire business is helping other businesses stay in compliance with Microsoft's complex licensing rules.

            It's truly bizarre that Microsoft wouldn't take advantage of their ability to waive the requirement to purchase additional licenses for commercial use of their own software on their own hardware.
      • Almost 100% of those companies are already licensed

        If the company has a license the users can even upgrade to their companies software (if the company allows its software to be installed on your BYOD).
      • BYOD probably covered

        If you have a license for office at work on your desktop then you are covered for your tablet is how I read this. We have volume licensing and it's covered here. Also if you have MSDN (anyone developing for windows should) it covers you as well. (The new terms for MSDN are really good for developers using MS products. "Your use of Software is governed by the terms of the license agreement, if any, that accompanies or is included with the Software. " and Office has a license agreement you have to agree to on install so is covered by that agreement not the "If Microsoft makes any other Software available on this web site without a license agreement, you may use it solely to design, develop and test your programs to run on Microsoft products and services."
        Office comes with an agreement you have to agree to and so you can use it by that agreement, which then covers you for your tablet as well. Oh and Windows 8 is also there and well pretty much everything else Microsoft makes.)