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Microsoft 365 "Subscription" vs Rental

Why call Microsoft 365 a software ‘subscription’ when it’s really renting?

A few readers have asked us why calls Microsoft 365 renting when it’s called ‘subscription’ by Microsoft.

Microsoft relentlessly uses the word ‘subscription’ to describe their preferred way to pay for Office but that doesn’t mean their use of the word is accurate.

Microsoft carefully and deliberately chose the word ‘subscribe’. It sounds like paying for a magazine or newspaper.

“Rent’ has all manner of negative connotations – if you stop paying rent, the rented house or software is taken away from you. That’s exactly what happens with an Office software ‘subscription’ … if you stop paying, Office stops working.

If you stop paying rent, Office reverts to ‘limited functionality mode’, effectively ‘read-only’ software which can open and display documents but not edit or print.

That’s why we call it ‘renting’ – because that’s what it is both legally and in practice. You’re paying for the right to use something (Office software) for a specified period. When you ‘buy’ Office or any other software you are really getting a ‘perpetual’ right to use not an actual purchase.

Need more? We turn to the Oxford English Dictionary for definitions:

Subscribearrange to receive something, typically a publication, regularly by paying in advance

Rentpay someone for the use of

The key difference is the word ‘something’ a subscription is for something tangible while renting is for the use of an object or service for a limited time.

Adobe Systems have adopted a similar model for Photoshop – and they called it ‘renting’ but later changed to ‘subscription’. We’re not sure if that’s corporate honesty or it means Adobe isn’t as good at marketing as Microsoft.

Microsoft will keep calling it a ‘subscription’ because that suits their marketing aims. We’ll call it ‘subscription’ in quotes or ‘rent’ because that’s what it really is.

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