Reseller News

Microsoft says Office rentals 'breach' its licence terms

Fasthosts' new 'software-as-a-service' package offering Microsoft Office for £5 (US$10) per month has been thrown into doubt, after the software giant claimed the service infringes its licensing regulations.

The deal, launched last week, allows consumers and businesses to rent Microsoft Office for a small monthly fee, rather than paying a one-off lump sum to buy the suite. Two packages are available: an Office Standard edition, which includes the 2007 versions of Excel, Word, Outlook and PowerPoint, and an Office Business Edition, which features the same four core apps together with Publisher, Access and InfoPath.

Once registered, users must download the entire suite of products and ensure their PC is connected to the internet to receive updates such as security fixes. Initially, subscribers won't be able to use the Office apps unless their PC or laptop is connected to the web, but Fasthosts plans to enable the apps to be used offline by the end of February.

But Microsoft claims this breaks its Office licensing terms, and the company said it's currently in discussions with Fasthosts to rectify the problem.

The web-hosting firm has so far denied Microsoft's claims, and the deal is still promoted heavily on its site.

"Fasthosts went live with this service in the knowledge that such an offering would be compatible with the Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) after it was confirmed, via its streaming partners, that approval had been made by Microsoft for such services to be streamed under the SPLA," Fasthosts said in a statement.

"Fasthosts has understood, and has had confirmed to it, that the facilitation of this approval is through the production of an addendum to the current SPLA, a decision confirmed in meetings between Microsoft European SPLA Division and a Fasthosts' software-streaming partner in January of this year.

"Fasthosts and Fasthosts' partners have therefore worked with the European and Worldwide SPLA teams in getting approval for this service prior to launch, in order to bring this innovative new offering to market."

The standard service is available from £5 per month, while the business alternative is available from £7. However, those two prices are for the 'academic' versions of the products; the standard prices are £15 and £20 respectively. Users must go through a self-certification process to verify that they are engaged in educational activities (such as school, college or night classes) or work in the education sector to benefit from the cheaper options.