Non-human Microsoft Office users get their own special licences

Automated operators can pay up like anyone – or anything – else

Microsoft has detailed a new form of software licence it offers to non-human users.

Revealed in April, the new Microsoft 365 E3 – Unattended License “permits usage of Office client applications with service or other non-user accounts, which is common for automation process execution.” Microsoft explains scenarios such as Excel using an API to ingest data that appears in custom cells relied upon by other applications

The sharp-eyed folk at Licensing School spotted that while the licences were announced on April 2nd, full details only emerged in a May 1st update [.DOCX] to Microsoft’s product T&Cs document.

Licensing School’s take on the legalese is that non-human users “… may use the suite in a physical or virtual machine including Windows Virtual Desktop, licence reassignment follows the same rules as if the Bot were a (real) user, and it’s an (illegal) multiplexing scenario if the Bot carries out activities on behalf of an unlicensed user or device.”

The T&C document mentions the E3 licence in the context of meeting rooms, Windows Virtual Desktops and vanilla Microsoft 365 use.

Microsoft’s also warned that unattended use is fragile. In the announcement of the licence would-be users are warned that product updates “may at times inhibit fully predictable unattended automation of Office applications” and that “Office applications have not been specifically designed for unattended usage at scale.”

A guide to unattended use also mentions server-side security concerns, a need for proactive application monitoring and other concerns. The company even recommends using its Graph API instead of unattended Office.

Which would leave us wondering why Microsoft has bothered with a new licence type, were it not for the fact that the company very seldom does anything to licences that will hurt revenue. ®

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