Office 365's new device management tool is made for IT, but consumers would like it too

Ability to manage Office licenses among multiple devices useful for families

Credit: Dreamstime

Microsoft plans to smooth out the Office 365 activation process, removing the need to manage which devices are actively subscribed to Office apps.

It’s a feature that would certainly benefit consumers—but it’s only for commercial customers, at least for now.

In a blog post, Microsoft said the device limit for Office 365 subscription remains the same: five PCs and five tablets, plus mobile devices. For those who own or share a large number of Office devices, though—at the moment, just IT departments—the licensing changes will ease one specific burden.

If you exceed your limit of subscribed Office devices, you won’t be asked to un-subscribe one of these devices manually. Office will simply choose which device hasn’t signed in to Office for the greatest amount of time, and sign out that device.

If you’ve ever managed an Office subscription, you may have experienced this: You exceed your available device limit, and Office makes you choose which device to unsubscribe. Unfortunately, Windows defaults to the random device names that PC OEMs attach to devices, mumbo-jumbo like “TABLET-93NRTY5.”

That doesn’t necessarily help you determine whether that’s the dusty old tablet on the bookshelf, or the new one you purchased for school. Automatically unsubscribing the most inactive machine would solve that problem.

In fact, you could make the argument that a rolling pool of licenses would actually add available licenses to a family.

Let’s say that a family of four has purchased an Office 365 subscription to run on their individual PCs, plus a shared family desktop. That’s five. If the family were to add another desktop, they’d have to manually detach one PC from the Office subscription.

But under Microsoft’s new licensing changes, each of the four family members could use any available PC. As long as only four licenses were in active use, the subscription would float back and forth among the available PCs.

Yes, IT admins need to manage the various devices assigned to a department’s employees. Such tools would make their lives easier. But an IT admin is paid to manage devices—that’s their job.

For a consumer, managing a device is a chore. Wouldn’t it be great to have a tool that would make that part of our lives easier?

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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