Microsoft’s slow, rolling launch of its latest version of Office continues today with the release to the public of Office 365 Home Premium and Office 2013 Home & Student.
Effective immediately, Office 365 Home Premium will be available in 162 markets and in 21 languages, with a subscription price in the U.S. of $99.99 per year. If you’re a college student or faculty or staff member in one of 52 supported markets, you’ll be able to buy a nearly identical Office 365 University subscription at a substantial discount: $79.99 USD for a four-year subscription. (The Office 2013 Home & Student package is a perpetual license that includes only Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.)
Today’s news is all about availability. None of the details of the Office 365/Office 2013 packages have changed substantially since last summer, when the hybrid releases of desktop software with subscription services went into public previews.
For an overview of Office 2013, see Microsoft defends desktop while moving Office 2013 to the cloud. Short version: The Home Premium release gives you the right to install the full desktop version of Office 2013 on up to five PCs (you can also devote one or more installations to Office Home & Business 2011 on a Mac). Although you need an Internet connection to install the Office programs, you don't have to be online to use them. The package includes Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Access, along with 20GB of extra SkyDrive storage for the primary account holder and 60 minutes of Skype minutes per month. The subscription is good for one year.
For answers to questions about Office 365 and Office 2013, see Office 2013: Editions at a glance and FAQ.
- Can Office 365 convince you that renting software is a good deal?
- Microsoft announces Office 2013 prices and packaging
- Mary Jo Foley: Microsoft's new Office: The cloud finally takes center stage
- Mary Jo Foley: Microsoft's new Office: More strategic than Windows 8?
In today’s other news, Microsoft announced that Office 365 for businesses will be released globally on February 27. But today’s consumer release could have a profound impact on your business, so don’t push the snooze button just yet.
Microsoft made a bold packaging decision with Office 365 Home Premium, including the full set of software that it previously sold only with pricey enterprise editions of Office. So your employees who pay for those low-cost subscriptions are going to get the ability to connect to corporate email with Outlook and to tap into corporate databases with Access.
Like it or not, Office 365 Home Premium is going to show up in your business on consumer devices: Your employees are likely to be using it on their own laptops and tablets, and they’ll probably be connecting to your company network from their home PCs.
The trouble is, the license for Office 365 Home Premium specifically excludes those uses. Here’s the relevant portion of the license agreement:
Only one person at a time may use the software on each licensed computer or licensed device. The service/software may not be used for commercial, non-profit, or revenue-generating activities.
If that prohibition sounds familiar, it’s because the same issue arose when Microsoft released its Surface device, which includes a similar prohibition in the Office 2013 RT license agreement. That issue was eventually resolved with a change to the terms of Microsoft’s Volume Licensing program. All Office licenses acquired through Volume Licensing (Office Professional Plus 2013 and Office Standard 2013) now include Commercial Use Rights for Office Home & Student 2013 RT for the primary user of the licensed device. You can also acquire a “commercial use license” by subscribing to one of the business editions of Office 365, as my colleague Mary Jo Foley discovered a few months ago.
But there’s no such exemption for Office 365 Home Premium yet. When I asked a Microsoft spokesperson for details, I was told:
If an employee is using their Office 365 commercial license for personal use, it is up to the company’s policies around home use. Microsoft licenses the company, who then assigns users.
And that should be a red flag for any business that is concerned about avoiding potentially costly licensing audits. Wes Miller, a Microsoft licensing expert at Directions on Microsoft, says CIOs need to be acutely aware of how each device that accesses their organization is licensed.
One solution, Miller says, is to sign up for Microsoft’s Software Assurance program as part of Office volume licensing, and then steer your employees to the Home Use Program. There, they can download Office Professional Plus 2013 (or Office Home and Business 2011 for the Mac) for 10 bucks. Licensing problems solved, albeit at a cost.
The other alternative is to sign up for one of the business-focused Office 365 plans when they’re available at the end of February.
Neither alternative is cheap, of course, but then neither is the prospect of coming out on the losing end of a software licensing audit.
If you get past the licensing headaches, there are good things to look forward to in Office 2013, including the ability to extend the capabilities of Office with custom add-ins sold through an online store. Collaboration capabilities are greatly improved, and SkyDrive Pro offers cloud storage that’s designed for corporate manageability.
I’ll cover those features in more detail next month when the Office 365 business SKUs are released.