Windows RT devices, including Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet, include an Office suite called Office Home & Student 2013 RT. However, the accompanying license terms prohibit the software from being used for commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities. While any traditional Office 2013 volume licensing customer and many Office 365 subscribers automatically get Office RT commercial use rights, others will have to purchase separate licenses to use Windows RT devices for work. Also, customers planning to use Windows RT devices to access Office running on virtual desktop infrastructure and Remote Desktop Services servers will generally require additional licensing.

Windows RT and Office RT

Preinstalled on ARM-based devices, Windows RT is a new member of the Windows family designed for lightweight tablets that compete with the iPad as well as ultra-portable laptops similar to the Apple MacBook Air. Office Home & Student 2013 RT (called Office RT here for short) is included preinstalled on all Windows RT devices. The four applications that comprise Office RT—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote—are very similar in appearance and functionality to their Office 2013 PC counterparts.

The most important missing feature in Office RT apps is Outlook, although Windows RT includes Mail, Calendar, and People apps that cover a subset of Outlook functionality. Office RT also cannot run macros, add-ins, forms with custom code, or other custom programs in Office documents.

Three Ways to Acquire Commercial Use Rights

The Office Home & Student 2013 RT license that comes with Windows RT is for noncommercial use only. To use the software for business purposes, customers must secure commercial use rights through one of three means:

  • License Office 2013 through volume licensing programs
  • Subscribe to Office 365 offerings that include Office Professional Plus
  • Buy a freestanding commercial-use license through volume licensing.

License Office 2013 Through Volume Licensing Programs

The editions of the Office suite offered through volume licensing programs—Office Standard 2013, Office Professional Plus 2013, and Office for Mac Standard 2011—include commercial use rights for Office RT. Specifically, the single primary user of an Office 2013—licensed device (or Office for Mac Standard 2011—licensed device) has the right to use Office Home & Student 2013 RT for commercial purposes on any Windows RT device. This right comes with the Office suite license; Software Assurance (SA) is not necessary. (Note that existing Office Standard or Professional Plus customers with installations covered by SA as of Oct. 2012 have rights to Office 2013, and thus possess commercial use rights for Office RT.)

2010 and earlier versions of Office Standard and Professional Plus do not include commercial use rights for Office RT, and retail and OEM editions of Office 2013 suites (Home & Business and Professional) also do not contain commercial use rights for Office RT.

Subscribe to Office 365 Offerings that Include Office Professional Plus

Office 365 is a set of online services hosted in Microsoft data centers on multitenant servers running Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint Server. For business customers, Microsoft offers more than a dozen Office 365 per-user subscription plans for licensing individual services or bundles of services, with several options, including rights to use Office Professional Plus desktop software. If a plan includes Office Professional Plus, the user is licensed for commercial use of Office Home & Student 2013 RT on any Windows RT device (for as long as the Office 365 subscription is active).

Office 365 plans with Office Professional Plus include the following:

  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 or E4
  • Office 365 Pro Plus (formerly called Office Professional Plus for Office 365)
  • Office 365 Midsize Business (available starting in 2013)
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium (available starting in 2013).

Office 365 Home Premium, targeted at consumers, does not include commercial use rights for Office Home & Student 2013 RT.

Buy a Freestanding Commercial-Use License

To add commercial use rights to an existing copy of Office RT, customers can purchase an Office Home & Student 2013 RT Commercial Use Rights license for a Windows RT device. This perpetual license, priced at US$59 (Open License price, which is generally the highest fee a U.S. organization would pay in volume licensing) is available through Open and Select/Select Plus volume licensing programs only; it is not available through retail or OEM channels.

Organizations cannot buy SA for the Office Home & Student 2013 RT Commercial Use Rights licenses, which is unusual. As a result, the license is not available through Enterprise Agreements, since all licenses offered through Enterprise Agreements are sold with SA.

VDI and RDS Scenarios Generally Not Covered

Under virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS, formerly called Terminal Server or Terminal Services) architectures, Office Standard or Professional Plus is installed and executed on a server, but displayed on a client device. Traditional Office suites (as opposed to Office 365 offerings) use a per-device license model. Under VDI and RDS scenarios, the client device used to display the Office user interface needs an Office license, with the version/edition of the Office license assigned to the client device matching the version/edition of Office running on the VDI or RDS server. So, while it is tempting to think that a Windows RT device licensed for Office RT commercial use is already adequately licensed for VDI and RDS scenarios, such is not the case; the Windows RT device generally requires its own Office Standard or Professional Plus license (just like a traditional PC or iPad would).

There is an exception, called roaming use rights, whereby a Windows RT device (or any other device) does not require its own Office Standard or Professional Plus license. However, three conditions must all be met:

  • The user of the Windows RT device has a work PC covered by an Office Standard or Professional Plus license with active SA
  • The user never accesses Office via VDI or RDS from the device while the user is on the organization's physical premises
  • The Windows RT device is "not controlled, directly or indirectly" by the organization (with "controlled" generally understood to be a proxy for device ownership or management).


The Office Home & Student 2013 RT home page is at

Office RT commercial use rights included with the freestanding Office Home & Student 2013 RT Commercial Use Rights license as well as with Office 2013 and Office 365 offerings are documented in the Oct. 2012 Product Use Rights (PUR) in the sections "Desktop Applications" and "Online Services." Current and past versions of the PUR can be downloaded from

For a comparison between Windows RT and Windows 8 for AMD and Intel x86 and x64 devices, see the chart "Windows RT" within the "How Windows 8 Is Delivered to Enterprises" section of the Dec. 2012 Research Report, "Windows 8 in the Enterprise."