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Office for Windows 10 is not free for everyone

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 9, 2015
Business use will require 'commercial license,' but Microsoft leaves customers in the dark about licensing details for larger tablets, notebooks and 2-in-1s.

Microsoft's hesitancy to define plans for Office Large wasn't surprising to Helm. "They may not know themselves yet what they'll do," Helm said.

Thus far, Microsoft has treated Office on mobile platforms like the iPad, iPhone and Android as an adjunct to the desktop suite, and so has been freeing some functionality. But it may not want to position Office Large in the same way, suspecting that it might replace Office 2016 on some devices, reducing revenue.

The most expedient solution would be to tie Office Large to Office 365, the rent-not-buy subscription program that the company continues to pitch both consumers and corporations. In that case, it would probably count Office Large as one of the five allowed PC or Mac installs for each user, not as one of the five smartphone or five tablet installs.

But if Microsoft sees Office Large as a replacement for Office 2016 (or its predecessor Office 2013), it may want to accommodate customers, especially enterprises that have no interest in adopting Office 365, with a way to obtain the apps, perhaps with additional licensing or fees, or as a part of the license of Office 2016.

Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, was skeptical that Office for Windows 10's apps are a credible replacement for Office on the desktop. He noted that for all the hullabaloo over a touch-enabled Office in the past year, the mouse-and-keyboard-controlled desktop suite remains a much better choice for business tasks.

Directions' Helm agreed. "Office for Windows 10 has the basic features, and so is like Office Web Apps in that respect," said Helm. "But for more specialized tasks -- we rely on Outline mode in long documents -- Office for Windows 10 is just not there."

Microsoft also confirmed that, as the product name implied, the touch-first apps will run only on Windows 10, even though the Windows Store beta pages for the previews currently say "You need Windows 8.1 or higher to purchase and install this app."

That won't be much of a barrier for consumers, who thanks to Microsoft's one-year free upgrade offer from Windows 8.1 Update and Windows 7 SP1, will quickly adopt Windows 10.


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