Office 365 users: Surface Pros now qualify as PCs or tablets

Office 365 users: Surface Pros now qualify as PCs or tablets

Summary: In a new Office 365 consumer licensing distinction, Microsoft is allowing Surface Pro and Pro 2 users to count their devices as PCs or tablets. Here's why this matters.


I've gotten a couple of questions recently from individuals who are considering purchasing consumer-focused Office 365 subscriptions as to whether their Surface Pro devices count as PCs or tablets.


This isn't just a semantic exercise. The reason they care is Office 365 Personal allows users to install Office on one PC or Mac plus one tablet for $70 a year. Office 365 Home allows users to install Office on up to five PCs and/or Macs, plus five tablets for $100 a year.

Microsoft officials had said previously that Surface devices, because of their detachable keyboards, counted as tablets, not PCs. While Microsoft officials often refer to Surface Pros as "tablets that can replace your laptop," they also position them as competitors to MacBooks, not iPads.

When Microsoft unveiled Office 365 Personal in March, Office execs said that "Any Windows device that is touch enabled and has a detachable keyboard qualifies as a tablet." That meant Surface Pros and Surface Pro 2s were defined for licensing purposes as tablets.

But more than a few Surface buyers are using their Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2 devices as their primary PCs. Some considering Office 365 wanted the option to count their Surface Pro as their PC and Office on iPad as their "tablet."

The good news: Microsoft is now allowing users to do this. When I asked Microsoft officials about their categorization of Surface Pros for subscriptions, a spokesperson sent me the following statement:

“We understand that the convergence of device categories can make it difficult to define some devices, and as a result, we have built in some flexibility for subscription customers. For example, an Office 365 Personal subscriber can define their Surface Pro as either a PC or a tablet.”

Because Surface RT and Surface 2 devices ship with Office included for free, the PC/tablet distinction is moot -- at least as for as long Microsoft continues to bundle Office on its ARM devices. But as Microsoft rolls out more Surface devices and delivers Office for Android tablets at some point, the PC/tablet distinction will become more important.

Topics: Mobility, Cloud, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8


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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  • too bad

    surface pro doesn't qualify as a platform which MSFT considered important enough to ship office touch by now.
    • The Metro Version of Office is coming ...

      ... maybe by the 20th. Then yes, it should ship with the Surface Pro 2, just as it does with the Surface 2. Remember though, this is the basic version of Office, not the full suite. That would still take an Office 365 subscription.
      M Wagner
      • I have not heard that Office is included with Surface Pros

        Only included with Surface (with RT). So, while Surface Pro 2 may be getting modern (Metro) Office available for purchase, I don't think it will come with it.
        • My assumption

          My assumption has been that project Gemini that is the touch version of Office will product products like OneNote for Metro that are Office lite and are free but compliment your full Office if you also have that installed.
          Rann Xeroxx
  • Office 365

    Lets hope Microsoft has some other ideas rather then a subscription cloud service for office moving forward.
    • Great Idea

      I work on several PC's and Office 365 w/ cloud works flawlessly. It is a really great deal and I no longer carry around a lot of thumb drives.
    • For anyone with more than one computer, an Office 365 subscription is ...

      ... a good deal. Most consumers only care about Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These are available to anyone anywhere at no cost.

      You want the full suite? Instead of paying $399 per seat for the full suite, you pay $100 per year for up to five seats. Over three years (Office lifecycle) that is a savings of $99 for one PC. For five PC's, that is a savings of over $1,695. AND, at the end of the three years, you still have the most up-to-date version of Office.

      The only way this doesn't make sense is if you only have one PC and you use the same version of Office indefinitely.

      For instance, if you are still using Office 2007, you would have paid $399 in 2007. You would have paid $700 to license Office 365 over that same period. But, you would have paid $700 INSTEAD OF $800 for licensing Office 2007 for two PC's. It just gets better until you exceed 5 PC's

      If you want MS Office, I just don't see how you can lose. If you don't, there are many free (or nearly free) alternatives to Office.
      M Wagner
      • Better, is Office 2003 professional or prior, full suite for $50 or so,

        indefinitely. You can add fileconverters.exe from MSFT download their website, and still read later iterations of Office, if people send you later ones. But typically, they won't. The world operates on Office 2003 and prior, and all your 'free' Linux knock-offs (which also run in Windows) are based on that interface.

        You can buy Office 2003 and prior (or MS Works 2006, which has full Word 2002), for $50 or less, in Amazon, new or open box.

        However, the real Office 2003 and prior is much better, totally customizable, with a ton of addins (i.e., Adobe Acrobat for pdf conversion).

        By contrast, versions of Office 2007 and later are progressively absent customization, much more glare white and glare blue, have fewer options and are harder to use. They also remove backwards-compatibility with prior Word, beginning with Word 2003 (but you can get UnblockExcel.reg and UnblockWord.reg files from MSFT download, to enable reading of those old files). I don't know if Word 2007 and after can read the older files.

        All that being said, if you're not in business, you don't need to worry much about compatibility with older files. If you don't do much word processing or work in spreadsheets, pretty much anything will do. But the 'free' programs imitate Office 2003 and prior, so think about that.
        • The world does not operate off of Office 2003

          Before my company upgraded to 2010 (now on 2013) they were running 2003 and were starting to have all kinds of compatibility issues. In large companies its not just file types (which they were having issues with) but also applications. Right now we are getting ready to deploy a Outlook plug-in for SalesForce that requires 2013.

          If you are not working in a large business or school than really you don't even need Office, even an older one. Before I would stay with Office 2003, I would switch to LibraOffice.
          Rann Xeroxx
  • Byzantine mess

    This is why I stopped paying attention to the EULA from MS. Not only is it impossible for the consumer to decipher they often change the rules mid-game. EULA are foe sheeple who let anyone dip into their wallets.
    • the real mess

      is android and linux, who know what stolen IP is in those OS. scamdroid and linux really aren't ever free, somebody is always reaching into your pocket to supoort that subpar software.
      • None at all...

        You can look for yourself... :)

        Besides, if there were any the LSF would have already been sued for it...

        Now there have been times when some was pointed out... and it was promptly removed and rewritten.

        Thus there are none there.
        • Wrong

          IP includes copyrights and patents, Microsoft is getting paid billions in those patent agreements.
      • Microsoft people are worried

        You Microsoft people are sure worried. If the competition is so bad, why again are you so worried all the time. Really, having to make up stuff all the time -- pathetic.
    • Think Home Licensing is bad

      Corporate licensing for MS is so complex, they have people whose only job is to decipher it. What's worse is VDI licensing, that is truly a mess.
      Rann Xeroxx
  • Change Current Installs from PC to Tablet?

    Any word on if/how you can change current installs from a PC to a Tablet?
  • I'm assuming that this flexibility will apply to similar devices from OEMs

    Otherwise, I imagine the DOJ boys (and girls) will be interested. Much of the DOJ effort 15 years ago had to do with Microsoft's relationships with it's OEMs - they are Microsoft's primary customers.

    Is a Sony Flip or a Lenovo Yoga a tablet or a PC. As is common in the computer business, the answer is likely "it depends".
    • Does a Sony Flip or Lenovo Yoga have a detachable keyboard?

      That answer can be used for whether or not it's a tablet.
  • Still a fad?

    I wonder if our favorite MS Shill will still think tablets are a fad now:

    "Microsoft officials had said previously that Surface devices, because of their detachable keyboards, counted as tablets, not PCs. While Microsoft officials often refer to Surface Pros as "tablets that can replace your laptop"
    • I wonder if all the scroogle shills

      will be here to tell us the wonders of chromebooks, lagdroid and scroogle docs? Please tell us again how they are even the equivalent of even Office 98?

      Jump on your lagdroid tablet and tell us how great it is...