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Is the Free Microsoft Office 365 a Licensing Nightmare?

Microsoft got some positive ink yesterday when it announced that Office 365 users on iPhones and iPads can now edit their documents for free and that the same capability was coming to Android tablets. Indeed it is good news for anyone who uses one or more of those devices (which is almost everyone these days).

But before you get too excited, you should read the fine print. As Directions on Microsoft Analyst Wes Miller noted on his blog, "Office is free for you to use on your smartphone or tablet if, and only if you are not using it for commercial purposes [and] you are not performing advanced editing."

If you do fit into the above-mentioned buckets or you want the unlimited storage and new Dropbox integration, it requires either an Office 365 Personal, Home or a commercial Office 365 subscription that comes with the Office 365 ProPlus desktop suite, Miller noted. As Computerworld's Gregg Keizer put it:  "What Microsoft did Thursday was move the boundary between free and paid, shifting the line."

In Microsoft's blog post announcing the latest free offering, it does subtly note that this offer may not be entirely free. "Starting today, people can create and edit Office content on iPhones, iPads, and soon, Android tablets using Office apps without an Office 365 subscription," wrote Microsoft Corporate VP for Microsoft Office John Case, though that fine print was at the end of his post. "Of course Office 365 subscribers will continue to benefit from the full Office experience across devices with advanced editing and collaboration capabilities, unlimited OneDrive storage, Dropbox integration and a number of other benefits." Microsoft offers similar wording on the bottom of its press release issued yesterday.

Still, while noting this is great news for consumers, it's going to be problematic for IT organizations, Miller warned, especially those that have loose BYOD policies. "For commercial organizations, I'm concerned about how they can prevent this becoming a large license compliance issue when employees bring their own iPads in to work."

Are you concerned about this as well?

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/07/2014 at 11:04 AM


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