We have decided, at the company I work for, to use Macs for all our work. The developers were already Mac users, and with the ability to run Windows software when needed, we are slowly converting the boss to using a Mac. In fact, we just ordered brand new MacBook Pros for all staff.

Now, the boss wants to run Microsoft Office 2007 – which is Windows only (the Mac version is Office 2004). That’s ok – he can dual boot his machine, or run VMWare on OS X. So it was left to me to buy the software he needed.

I went to a local store to order Office 2007. The following is the actual conversation I had with the person working there.

Buying the Software

Me: Hi. I’d like to buy a copy of Office 2007.

Shop Assistant: No problem. What version would you like?

Now, I might not be too familiar with the Microsoft world, but I know enough to know that they have lots of different and confusing versions of software, and that Office is ridiculously expensive. Anyway, I’d done a little research, so knew what we needed.

Me: Standard edition.

Shop Assistant: Hmmmm. I don’t think there is such a thing. Let me check.

The shop assistant sits at his computer and looks up “Office 2007”. His screen fills with dozens of versions of the software. He examines the screen intently.

Shop Assistant: There is no “Standard” edition. We have “Professional”, we have “Small Business”, we have “Ultimate”, we have “Basic”, we have “Student”, we have…hmmm…lots of others. But no “Standard”.

Ok, that throws me a little. I know there is a “Standard” edition, but he can’t find it. I hadn’t heard of “Small Business”, and our company is a small business. But I should check what the “Basic” version is first.

Me: What’s in “Basic”?

Shop Assistant: Word, Excel and Outlook.

Me: We need Powerpoint too.

Shop Assistant: (Calls out to colleague) What version of Office 2007 has Powerpoint too?

Shop Assistant’s Colleague: Small Business

Me: What’s in Small Business then?

Shop Assistant: (Looks at screen) Hmmm. It also includes Publisher.

Now we don’t need Publisher. But if it is included, and the price is right, it doesn’t matter.

Me: How much is the Small Business edition?

Shop Assistant: (Tapping at keyboard) The OEM version of it is $300.

I can’t recall the exact amount he quoted, but it was along those lines. Now “OEM” is in the mix. Of course, we don’t have OEM versions of software for the Mac generally, so this is also new to me. It seems some companies will sell you the OEM version of software, even though they shouldn’t. I can only ask more questions.

Me: So, can you sell me the OEM version?

Shop Assistant: Not unless you buy a computer from me.

I’m getting frustrated.

Me: Ok, so how much for the “Retail” version of “Microsoft Office 2007 Small Business Edition”?

Shop Assistant: Hey? Hmmmm… (Looks on computer). It is $700!

Me: So, can I buy that?

Shop Assistant: No one buys the retail version! It is too expensive! I’ve never had anyone actually buy the retail version!

Me: But you can’t sell me the OEM version?

Shop Assistant: Only if you buy a computer.

I thanked him for his time and left. Went back to the office and ordered the “Standard” edition online, and it arrived a few days later at the office.

How is having so many confusing versions of the software a good thing? It just wasted a day of my time at least. And that was before I discovered “Activation”…


The software uses product “Activation“. This is also something new to me. Well, actually I’d experienced it a few days before when I installed Windows XP on the machine. What follows is the experience of a non-Windows user to the world of “Microsoft Activation”.

First, I’ve set up the Mac side of the machine, and it all works great. We also bought copies of iWork ’08 – and although it might not be as feature complete as Office in some areas, Keynote is leaps ahead of Powerpoint, Pages is beautiful, and Numbers is superb for general spreadsheets that end up looking fantastic rather than just a grid with some graphics in them.

Anyway, I’ve also bought and installed VMWare Fusion. And I’ve installed Boot Camp. I’ve then installed Windows XP.

Runs fine dual booted, and runs fine in VMWare. Now, Windows XP asks me to “Activate” it. I do so, over the internet.

It all works fine in VMWare. I then dual boot to Windows XP, and I’m shocked to see that it wants me to activate again (well, I’m not totally shocked, as I realise the way it works is that it sees this as a different hardware configuration. I guess I’m just surprised as I’m not use to this).

The trouble is, it says I’ve already used the activation key. Even though this is the same machine! So now I have to call Microsoft to tell them what has happened and get some huge number over the phone to activate the non-VMWare version of the software.

I do that – it wasn’t difficult, but it was time consuming. Now I can dual boot, or use VMWare. And all is fine. Unless I decide I want to reinstall, or repartition etc. Then, apparently, I may need to call Microsoft once more.

Truly, this is AWFUL. Why do Windows users put up with activation? It makes the law-abiding user feel like a criminal, and is a pain in the arse when it bites you (as in this case).

Anyway, I thought that was all behind me now. Until I installed Office 2007. Activation once again! Oh come on!

I get it activated over the internet, and it works fine. I now boot back to OS X, and use VMWare. Office starts, and says it needs to be activated. Oh not again!

Fortunately the same key works in VMWare. Trouble is, every time you dual boot, you need to activate Office in the new configuration – which means you need an internet connection. That’s probably something VMWare need to fix – but Activation is the cause of the problem.

Plain and simple: Activation sucks.

Microsoft Office

2 thoughts on “Microsoft Office

  • August 21, 2007 at 11:42 am

    That would make a cool t-shirt:

    Activation Sucks!


    Activation – Just Say No!


    Join the War on Activation


    Activation means having to say you’re sorry

  • August 22, 2007 at 11:59 am

    This is part of the world domination plan of microsoft. Overwhelm the user with so many editions they just say “I don’t care! just give me teh office!”, and they end up getting the more expensive version they don’t need.

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