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Microsoft has clarified the licensing for retail versions of its Office 2013 productivity suite, confirming that boxed editions of the software are licensed for a single PC only and that the license may never be transferred, even if the user upgrades to a new PC.Over the past week, Office users around the web have expressed dismay over new, draconian-sounding terms in the Office 2013 retail license that seem to severely curb what customers can do with the software. Specifically, this paragraph raised the most eyebrows: You may not transfer the software to another computer or user. You may transfer the software directly to a third party only as installed on the licensed computer, with the Certificate of Authenticity label and this agreement. Before the transfer, that party must agree that this agreement applies to the transfer and use of the software. You may not retain any copies.Note the italicized portion above (emphasis ours). What it means is that the only way to give or sell your copy of Office 2013 to someone else is to physically give it to them, by handing over the actual computer that the software is installed on.Under these terms, you can't even transfer the software to yourself. If you buy a new PC, you're expected to buy a brand-new retail copy of Office to go with it, even if you uninstall it from your old machine.That Microsoft would be so brazen as to license its software under such terms beggars belief. And yet, as it turns out, that's just what it has done.So what are honest customers to do if they need to use Office on more than one computer, or if they plan to buy new PCs before the next version of Office comes out? Anyone who has been following the latest Office launch should already know Redmond's answer to that: those customers should skip the retail version of Office 2013 and get Office 365 subscriptions instead.As Fark points out, each Office 365 Home Premium subscription allows you to install the Office applications on five different computers at once, and the licenses are infinitely transferable – just deactivate the suite on one device and install it on another. Details for the business editions of the new Office 365 have yet to be formally announced, but El Reg has it on good authority that those licenses will allow similar flexibility.Still, not every customer will be pleased with an arrangement under which they essentially rent their software, rather than buying it, and many are sure to resent what seems like a strong-arm tactic on the part of Microsoft designed to break traditional purchasing patterns.Stricter licensing for the retail versions of Office isn't the only way Redmond has been trying to push customers toward the subscription model, either. Early on it tried the carrot approach, by offering various incentives as exclusives for Office 365 customers. Lately, however, it has increasingly favored the stick – most recently by upping the prices of the Mac version of Office to match those of its Windows counterpart, even though Office for OS X has not had a refresh since October 2010."We think this new lineup offers unmatched choice and value for students, families and everyone in between," Fark writes in his blog post. To those who don't agree, however, alternatives such as LibreOffice are looking better than ever. ®