Microsoft has saddled the new Office for Mac 2011 with an activation process that's significantly more draconian than that demanded of customers running the Windows version of the suite.
Office for Mac 2011 comes with a 25-character alphanumeric activation key that must be entered within 15 days of running any of the suite's apps for the first time. During that grace period, the software works as if it had been activated. At the end of the grace period, Office for Mac 2011 refuses to launch. "[It] becomes unusable," a Microsoft spokesman said in an e-mail.
Failure to enter the key and activate the suite displays a message on the screen that reads, "You must activate your copy of Office for Mac before you can use it," along with a button that initiates the online activation procedure.
Both the grace period and the ramifications of not activating Office for Mac 2011 are stricter than those facing Office users running Windows.
Office for Mac 2011, however, switched to a single activation code and to an install-based licensing plan, effectively halving the number of Macs on which a customer can install the program. The EULA (PDF) for the $150 Home and Student 2011 Family Pack states, "You may install one copy of the software on up to three licensed devices in your household."