By Vincent Brasseur
Few weeks ago, Microsoft has announced the availability of Office 365 for iPad. The licensing terms related to the use of the Microsoft Office suite on mobile devices, including the iPad, are confusing. There are different Microsoft offerings covering its use; there are also different ways to access Microsoft Office from a mobile device. Some organizations and users may already be entitled to use the product in this environment, others may require additional licenses.
Office 365 is a cloud offering that includes Microsoft Office products. These products are installed locally on devices, but Office 365 also allows access via your web browser. Office 365 is licensed per user and enables each user to install the suite of products on up to 5 devices owned by the organization, or that individual if the company has implemented a Bring Your Own device (BYOD) policy. Each user covered under “Office 365 Enterprise E3” or “Office 365 Enterprise E4” subscription is entitled to install Microsoft Office 365 on his or her own devices; this includes not only Windows 7 or 8 Operating Systems but also OSX and iPad. The distribution of the Microsoft products is uneven across these platforms. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Lync and InfoPath are available on Windows Operating Systems. Only Word, Excel and PowerPoint are available for download on iPad along with Lync and OneNote (free) clients. Lync, OneNote and Publisher are not available natively on Mac.
Office 365 for iPad can also be installed for free but it is limited to viewing only Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Another free option available for iPad from Microsoft is Office Online that uses Internet Explorer, Safari or Chrome browsers for access. It provides online web access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint with full capabilities. It cannot really be used if the device is disconnected from the Internet. Business versions of these online tools are available from Microsoft and sold as “Enterprise 365 Enterprise E1” or “Office 365 Enterprise K1” subscriptions. These subscriptions provide online access to additional features such as Outlook and OneNote. All of these options are included in the “Office 365 Enterprise E3” and “Office 365 Enterprise E4” subscriptions. Note that OneNote can also be downloaded for free on the iPad, but in these subscriptions, online access from other devices where a client is not available is provided.
Office 365 ProPlus is an offering providing the features available in the traditional Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013 as a user based subscription. It includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access and Lync. As for Office 365, ProPlus entitles each end user to install the applications on up to 5 devices on Windows, MAC and mobile devices such as iPads with the platform restrictions mentioned above. The key difference with Office 365 is that Office 365 ProPlus is not a cloud based offering; none of the cloud features such as all the Microsoft Office Online features or cloud storage are available through this offering.
A more traditional approach to use Office products on an iPad is to use application or desktop virtualization technologies. This type of access is not optimum as the Office applications used in this case are the ones that have been designed for a computer equipped with a keyboard and a mouse. Licensing the use of Microsoft Office on an iPad could be less desirable in these scenarios. If the user is assigned by the organization a desktop that has a perpetual Office license covered by Software Assurance, the Office roaming use right is provided with that license. This right provides remote access to Microsoft Office from a device owned by the end user. iPad devices owned by the organization, and used with these technologies must be covered by an Office license. If the virtual desktop technology is used, an additional Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) or Companion Subscription License (CSL) license may be needed to access the virtual desktop itself.
Microsoft provides a large set of options: Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions, Office On-Demand and traditional Microsoft Office perpetual device licenses. As Office 365 adoption is growing among organizations, it is likely that enterprises are not going to use only one license model moving forward. They will likely use a combination of all these options to match their needs. All of these options, including the subscriptions, represent license management and optimization challenges. A mix of licensing options significantly increases the risk of license non-compliance or over-purchase— enterprises will need to figure out which user or device is assigned to which license and apply the corresponding product use rights to get an accurate license position. Then, they will need to remix their licenses across devices and users to optimize the overall license consumption and minimize purchase of new licenses or subscriptions.
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See also this previous blog: Office 365 for Large Enterprises.