Way back when, in the days when Microsoft starting talking up Office 2013 critics of the Redmond giant made some pretty pointed comments about slow-coach Microsoft and the cloud. There may have been reasons to suggest that the company was behind the times with a desktop office suite, but the recent issues around licensing of Office 2013 shows exactly where it is putting its money.

Microsoft Office 2013 Licensing

That is not to say that Microsoft has made any grand statements about cloud and cloud strategies -- if only! But the way the licensing and pricing has happened definitely suggests that if it isn’t actually kicking users into the cloud, it is definitely make a very sweet case for it.

The problem is that when Office 2013 was released, under terms of the licensing agreement users were it seems no longer able to transfer the Office 2013 license to another computer, even if the computer wentbust, or the user wanted to upgrade.

In a nutshell, this meant that once you purchase the key card for Office 2013, and once you install it on a single device, no matter what happened, you aren’t allowed install on another device.

This was different, you may remember, from the earlier 2010 version, which you bought on disk and which could be transferred to another device as long as it was deactivated on the previous device. This enabled users to upgrade their computer, for example, or if the old one crashed, put it on a new computer.

Not with Office 2013, which has caused considerable anger among people who like upgrades and new software.

In fact, the controversy over it has been such that Microsoft has been obliged to address the criticisms in a post on the Office blog by Jevon Fark, who describes himself as an Office Team member.

Office 2013 v Office 2010

The first thing he does in the post is to offer us the chart below outlining the different licensing agreements for both Office 2010 and Office 2013.

Office 2013.jpg

The chart confirms what people were outraged about; notably that Office 2013 is licensed to one computer and one computer alone for the rest of its life. There are a couple of small caveats. The principal one is explained as followed:

Learning Opportunities

…In the event that a customer buys the Office 2013 software and installs it on a PC that fails under warranty, the customer can contact support to receive an exemption to activate the Office 2013 software on the replacement PC…”

So there is at least that, although if you’ve ever tried to get sense out of Microsoft support, you’ll see the inherent problems.

However, theblog also contains the nearest Microsoft has come to asking people directly to move over to Office 365, in the same way it are wagging its ‘naughty’ finger at users of Hotmail that are still reluctant to make the Outlook jump. According to Fark:

For those looking to use Office on multiple devices -- Office 365 Home Premium works across up to 5 devices (Windows tablets, PCs or Macs) and can be activated and deactivated across devices.

We have also seen previously that the pricing for the desktop version and the pricing of the online of Office 365 makes the online version a lot more attractive, especially as Microsoft has also said it expects to add regular updates.

Microsoft, Business Suites, Cloud Computing

The only thing that really remains a mystery is why Microsoft just won’t say that it wants people to go the online route. It is clear that there is still a huge market for desktop productivity suites, but it is rapidly eroding as the abilities of Microsoft’s competitors, like Google, offer similar products for a lot less.

Could it be that Microsoft is still not entirely convinced that businesses are going to take to the cloud and still sees a large market in desktop development? Certainly, if the recent Dell ‘loan’ is anything to go by, this would indeed seem to be the case.

But then we have also seen that the PC market in both the US and Europe appear to be in a terminal downward spiral, largely as a result of mobile computing and large numbers of consumers turning to the cloud.

In effect, this means that at least for now Microsoft is trying to sit on two different stools. But if one of those stools falls over, which could happen with so many competitors kicking at the legs of one or other of them, then Microsoft could have a nasty fall.