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Microsoft Excel Licensing - What You Can And Can't DoMicrosoft Excel Licensing - What You Can And Can't Do

As a software author we are very keen to ensure that all our customers subscriptions are correct and in line with the day to day usage.


One major benefit of a Cloud subscription or pay as you go service is that you can adjust the numbers of users (both up and down depending on your need) on a month by month basis. Aqilla also has a very simple schedule describing our Terms of Use which runs to about two pages of A4, laid out in clear, easy to understand English.

Alas the same is not so for many other licences. Many people when installing software blithly click through the License Terms not even stopping to read them. I often wondered whether some wag supplier would one day assign all the rights to your bank account over to them just to see what could happen!

Some of the most complex licensing is to be found on software we all use every day. Microsoft Office and Microsoft Excel are just two great examples. How much do you know about it? Are you operating it within the permissible limits? Have you ever bothered to even read the license terms? Probably not ...

Well to save you a job, I have. Below is a snapshot of the major terms you need to take into consideration when using either Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft Office 2013, Microsoft Excel 2010 or Microsoft Excel 2013. Although the license in all cases is *very* long and covering all sorts of scenarios it is, to be fair to Microsoft, written in clear straightforward language. No 'whereinsoeverthereafter's' to be found!

The Microsoft Office / Excel 2010 licenses state:

  • 1 licensed copy is required per device
  • Only 1 copy of a licensed product can be used at a time
  • Licensed for only 1 virtual hardware system on the device
  • May only be used by a single primary user of a device
  • Remote access only permissible by any other party only for the purposes of support
  • No other person may use the same licence at the same time for any purpose
  • Expressly you may not rent, lease or lend the software
  • Expressly you may not use software for commercial hosting services.
With the introduction of the latest versions in April this year, Microsoft have updated some of the terminology to reflect a change in business need and common use. 

The Microsoft Office / Excel 2013 licenses now state:
  • A copy is licensed for only one computer.
  • A key change is that the Licence expressly states that it does not give permission for installation on a server for use by other computers
  • It may not be licensed for commercial hosting. You can't in other words rent it from anyone else other than Microsoft.
  • Despite the growth in use, you may not use or virtualise components in a virtual machine such as VMWare or Oracle's Virtual Box. This seems a bit far reaching in my view but I think the spirit of the terms means that....
  • You may not also multiplex or pool connections or allow multiple users or computers to access or use the software indirectly through the licensed computer.
  • Everyone or every virtual computer must have their own licensed copy.
  • Again remote access by third parties is only permissable for the purposes of technical support. 

Whist the software still needs to be activated, getting hold of the software is now so much more straightforward with downloads available from the Microsoft store and license keys emailed or purchased on cards from popular retailers such as Amazon. 

One major change is Apple's App Store concept of an Apple-ID, Microsoft really wants you to register Excel (and Windows 8 for that matter) wherever possible against your Microsoft id. Moving a license from one id to another is not a straightforward exercise. However my experience has shown that for example uninstalling the 64 bit version and re-installing the 32 bit version (or vice versa) on the same machines presents no obstacles. 

As ever, we would hold that if you use something and you derive value from such use, do always make sure you purchase the appropriate licence that you need. It is personal computer software after all.
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