Linux users will need a Microsoft Office license to use Office Web Apps

I spoke to Jeff Teper, Microsoft’s Corporate VP of the Office Business Platform, who runs the SharePoint engineering group. I asked him to clarify something has puzzled me: the licensing for Office Web Apps. From a technical point of view, Office Web Apps is an add-on for SharePoint; it does not require the paid-for SharePoint Server (success to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server), but neither is it free – you may only install it if you have a volume license for Microsoft Office.

That much I understood; but what are the implications for businesses who have a volume license that does not cover everyone in the organisation? For example, I might purchase 100 volume licenses for the people who need to run Microsoft Office, but have another 50 who have OEM Office, or Open Office, or who don’t need to run Office at all. Some may be running Linux, on which Microsoft Office is not supported at all – though some have it working using WINE. Another scenario is where you have a SharePoint installation published to partners over the Internet. Is it OK to let them use Office Web Apps?

“The simple answer is that you do need a volume license for each user”, said Teper, though he added, “Our volume licensing is tailored to each customer, we will do specific things for each customer’s need. But the blanket statement is that its available for volume license customers per user.”

So would a Linux user need a license for Microsoft Office in order to access Office Web Apps, even though they couldn’t run the desktop version?

“Yes, that’s our default licensing.”

I also asked about how the licensing works. Is it enforced technically, so that the server refuses connections if they exceed the licensed number, or is it on a trust basis? Teper answered somewhat mysteriously:

“We provide volume license customers the tools to track that.”

My guess is that it is essentially done on trust (though perhaps subject to audit) but I couldn’t get Teper to confirm that.

Still, it seems to me that this licensing requirement will inhibit organisations from taking full advantage of what the Office Web Apps can do. The advantage of a web-based solution is that anyone can access it, both within an organisation, and beyond it if you choose to publish it on the Internet. I doubt there will be much enthusiasm for buying Office licenses for Linux users, though maybe the kind of organisation that has a full Microsoft-platform deployment does not have internal Linux users anyway.

In mitigation, it’s worth mentioning that Microsoft is also making Office Web Apps available for free, through Live Skydrive and Office Live Workspace. If you use those services, anyone with a Live ID can be given access to your Office Web App documents.

11 thoughts on “Linux users will need a Microsoft Office license to use Office Web Apps”


    Say NO to Microsoft extortion. Again.

    Again down with Microsoft and their convicted-illegal monopolistic office software ,,Office”. Open and free the world of IT for all of us. Their corporate-robber paradigm is neither helpful nor healthy for the enterprise. A little thing called the whole world is tired of paying the same 25 corporate robbers elite royalties and time comes again to stop and say NO. Of course I simplify here but – the truth of the idea is really out there in the world and no one except the pirates at Microsoft corporate are trying to extort more fees.

  2. Office 2010 offers nothing new…. and I cant see why anyone using Linux would want to pay for on-line office when Google and others are free.

  3. Insanity when offer free use of the office suite with compatibility. Wiiiiiiiiiiiide of the mark. You’d have to be (micro)soft in the head to pay for this! -ha…see what I did there?!

  4. The only Linux user use for paying for this that I can think of would be to use some of the more “refined” features in Excel (very nice pivot table functions, I must begrugingly admit) or being able to open an Access database a co-worker created… Other than that,… why?!?!

  5. Reading some news today that MS Office 2010 will be installed on 80% of computers This sort of anti trust monopoly needs banning out right. Especially in America, One still can’t buy a computer with or without any other operating system installed on it, No matter what computer store you go to,

    I tried to buy a laptop without Microsoft Windows but was told “Sorry sir”, “we don’t sell systems without windows 7”, Buying direct from manufactures websites is the same, Windows 7 or nothing. Corporate control comes first, you have what you’re told to have, Democracy at it’s best,

    Microsoft controls manufactures, manufactures control the users, Like Apple Mac control the widgets,the widgets control the widget users,

  6. Carling, have you tried ZaReason, System76, or LinPC? They offer computers with Linux pre-installed, with the first two offering pre-installed Ubuntu and the other offering systems with PCLinuxOS pre-installed.

  7. Carling: I bought my acer aspire one with linux pre-installed. You can by systems without Windows. If they tell you no, move on to the next. The one with GNU/Linux or no OS option wins the sale.

  8. Amazing how people keep paying good money for products that force them to follow the manufacturer’s business plan when they use it…window$, iPhone, etc. I was going to say that we are a nation of sheep but I guess it is world-wide. Lucky I can still build my own box and put what I want on it. Eff’em!

  9. Even if MS offers more than the competition (and I’d need a lot more evidence to be convinced), you’d be spending money to create content for which Microsoft holds both lock and key. They don’t know or care anything about interoperability. The variant of OOXML implemented by Microsoft right now in MS Office 2010 (or that in earlier versions of MS Office) is NOT an open standard. They are liars if/when they claim interoperability, and users are hapless fools if they believe them. The only reason there’s any semblance of interoperability is because *other companies* have invested untold millions (outside of the US, because it’s illegal to reverse engineer there) to provide some compatibility through reverse engineering (and OpenOffice is better at opening old MS documents than newer versions of MS Office is). But MS know that they’re absolutely screwed the second anyone offers full interoperability with MS Office – their monopoly prices on the main one of three parts of the entire business making money (Sharepoint, Win 7, and MS Office) will be untenable.

  10. Well, they do care about interoperability pretty much.
    They are making 100% sure that their products are 100% not interoperable in order to keep users in a lock.
    Fortunately there are other options and I am sure not going to buy anything from microsoft anytime soon…
    Go for Linux and OpenOffice

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