More Office 2013 bait-and-switch revelations

Before upgrading to Office 2013, take a close look -- you may lose more than expected, specifically the PowerPivot BI tool that was free in Excel 2010

As part of the deluge of mail flooding my way subsequent to the formal release of Office 2013, several people have complained about the way the Microsoft Office pre-launch offer robs them of several Office features. Under the terms of the offer, if you buy a retail copy of Office 2010 between Oct. 19, 2012 and April 30, 2013, you can download and install a free copy of the corresponding version of Office 2013. It looks great on paper, but the reality is a bit harsh.

The main complaint I've heard -- and the one that has prompted the most cries of "bait and switch" -- is about the difference in licensing rules. But the complaint that really stings is the disappearance of a key new Excel feature. The PowerPivot add-in was free in Excel 2010, but if you upgrade to Excel 2013, there's no way short of a volume license or an expensive version of Office 365 to get your PowerPivot tables back. You can't even buy a PowerPivot-savvy version of Excel 2013. For those dabbling in business intelligence with PowerPivot, the "upgrade" cuts them off at the knees.

Last week I talked about the differences in licenses between Office 2010 and 2013. To wit, if you buy Office 2010 retail, you can install it on two or three computers and the licenses can be transferred if you lose, destroy, or sell your old PC. If you buy a copy of Office 2013 (as opposed to renting it with Office 365), you get to install the program on one machine and it dies with that machine.

Several people wrote in to say they bought Office 2010 and installed it on two (or three) machines, fully expecting they'd be able to upgrade all of the copies to Office 2013. Wrong -- while the older copies will continue to work, only one of the Office 2010 machines can be upgraded for free to Office 2013. That's only part of the story. If you bought Office 2010 thinking you'd be able to upgrade to Office 2013 on a bigger, faster, badder PC without paying for Office again, you're delusional. You can move the Office 2010 license to a bigger PC -- or a smaller one, for that matter -- but once you've switched to Office 2013, the license is locked in stone. And silicon.

Yesterday, Microsoft senior marketing manager Jevon Fark posted a comparison of the old and new licensing rules. His table may lead you to think there's been no significant change in Office licensing restrictions, but that isn't so. If you flip his pivot table, the contrast becomes more apparent. Office 2010 Home and Student lets you install up to three copies, and the installations are transferrable from PC to PC. Office 2010 Home and Business, and Office 2010 Professional both allow two installations and the licenses are also readily transferred. By contrast, all versions of Office 2013 are limited to one PC, and the license can't be transferred to another PC, no matter what the circumstances, short of a complete breakdown under warranty.

Tell me again about this "free upgrade"? I bet the salesclerk at Best Buy waving the "Microsoft Office Pre-launch Offer" coupon didn't warn you about this. Fark's point is that the Office 2010 Product Key Card versions -- the ones where you buy an activation code on a card or pay to have one sent by email -- are also limited to a single installation on one PC. He remarked that Product Key Card versions were "chosen by a majority of Office 2010 customers worldwide." (That's an interesting insight, by the way -- Office Starter Edition, which only takes a Key Card to turn into "real" Office, must've been very popular before Microsoft killed it last June.) The Product Key Card-activated versions of Office 2010, like Windows itself, don't outlive the machine.

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