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Choose a Microsoft Office 2013 license based on user number, devices

The number of versions of Microsoft Office 2013 can be confusing, so we walk you through Office 2013 license options, including for mobile devices.

Once upon a time, Microsoft Office licensing was simple. You needed one license for each PC on which you planned...

to install the suite. Today, things aren't quite that cut-and-dried. Technologies such as virtualization, cloud services and proliferating mobile devices have complicated once-simple Office license policies. Let's get started with deciphering Microsoft Office 2013 licensing policies.

Office 2013 Editions

When it comes to traditional Microsoft Office deployments, there are three different editions of Office 2013: Office Home and Student 2013, Office Home and Business 2013, and Office Professional 2013. Each edition is licensed on a per-computer basis, with each installed instance requiring a single Office 2013 license. For licensing purposes, Microsoft treats a physical computer the same as a virtual computer.

The main differences between these editions are their prices and the products they include. Each of the three main editions includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. In addition, Office Home and Business 2013 also includes Outlook. Office Professional 2013 includes the base Office applications and Outlook, Access and Publisher.

Office 2013 licensing for mobile devices

A number of different mobile devices support Microsoft Office. However, the licensing terms vary from one device to the next.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 devices come with Microsoft Office preinstalled. You are allowed to run Office on these devices without having to purchase an Office license. However, even though Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 devices include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, they do not run Office 2013. Instead, Windows Phone runs a mobile version of Office with a very limited feature set.

Similarly, Microsoft Surface RT tablets also come with Microsoft Office preinstalled. Those who own Surface RT devices are allowed to use Office 2013 without purchasing an additional license.

Unlike Windows Phone devices, Surface RT devices do include Microsoft Office 2013. Initially, Surface RT devices included Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. An update expected soon will add Outlook to the devices as well.

It is worth noting that although Surface RT devices do include Office 2013, a few features are missing. The one that has received the most attention is support for running macros. However, the majority of the missing features are relatively obscure and are not likely to be missed by casual users.

Although Microsoft includes an Office 2013 license with Surface RT devices, an Office 2013 license is not included with Surface Pro devices. Surface Pro is capable of running Office 2013, but Office must be purchased separately.

Office 365 subscriptions

In addition to the traditional Microsoft Office licenses, Microsoft has also begun offering Office 2013 as a subscription. This is being done through Office 365. Microsoft offers a variety of Office 365 subscriptions, which vary based on the target customer, subscription length, price and included licenses.

The most basic Office 365 subscription is Office 365 Home Premium. This subscription includes access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher, but it targets home users. The subscription is valid for a year and includes licenses for up to five computers.

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Microsoft also offers Office 365 University, an Office 365 subscription that is geared toward college students. This subscription includes access to the same Office products as are included with Office 365 Home Premium, but the license is valid for four years and is limited to two computers.

There are three main Office 365 offerings for businesses that want access to Office 2013 on a subscription basis. The first is Office 365 Small Business Premium. This is a one-year subscription that allows Office to be installed on up to five computers.

Similarly, Microsoft offers Office 365 Midsize Business, which is almost identical to the Office 365 Small Business Premium subscription. The main differences are the user limit and what's included. Office 365 Small Business Premium can be used only in organizations with up to 25 users. Office 365 Midsize Business is for organizations with up to 300 users. Office 365 Midsize Business also includes InfoPath, whereas Office 365 Small Business does not.

Office 365 Enterprise E3 provides Office 2013 to larger organizations on a subscription basis. This service includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Lync and InfoPath on up to five computers for each user. Although Office 365 Enterprise targets the largest organizations, there is no minimum license count. I personally have a two-license subscription to Office 365 Enterprise E3.

Not every Office 365 subscription includes Microsoft Office 2013 licenses. For example, Office 365 Small Business, Office 365 Hosted E-Mail (Exchange Online Plan 1) and Office 365 Enterprise E1 do not include Office 2013 licenses. Even so, most of the Office 365 subscriptions include access to the Office Web apps.

As you can see, there are several Office 2013 license options. Microsoft offers traditional on-premises licenses, but it also offers Office 365-based subscription programs. See which version of Office 2013 offers the price and number of users that best fit your organization.

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