By I-Hsien Sherwood | ( | First Posted: Feb 19, 2013 01:22 PM EST

Office 365 (Photo : Reuters)

Previously, we speculated that the updated Microsoft Office 2013 license could prevent users from reinstalling the software on a new computer if their old one died or they upgraded to a new model.

Now Microsoft has confirmed that restrictive interpretation.

"Microsoft yesterday confirmed that a retail copy of Office 2013 is permanently tied to the first PC on which it's installed, preventing customers from deleting the suite from one machine they own and installing it on another," writes ComputerWorld.

After an article in The Age first brought up the issue, ComputerWorld went directly to Microsoft.

"Via email, Computerworld asked Microsoft, 'Once an Office 2013 retail license is assigned through activation to a PC, it's connected TO THAT PC, correct? Just as is Windows. That then means it cannot be reassigned to ANOTHER PC owned by the same individual, correct?'" they asked.

"The response from Microsoft's public relations firm was simply, 'Correct.' Another question asked whether, under the retail Office 2013 EULA, customers could move the suite -- and its license -- to a replacement PC when the original was lost, stolen or destroyed. Microsoft reply: 'No comment.'"

The reason for the change is obvious. Microsoft is doing everything it can to push users toward its Office 365 subscription service, which runs $100 per year for up to 5 users in the same household.

"We've been very clear in all of our communications that customers seeking transferability should get Office 365 and that Office 2013 is licensed to one device," said Microsoft.

It's not yet apparent how Microsoft plans to police end users. If, for example, the original computer with the Office 2013 installation breaks, what is to stop someone from just installing the software on a replacement computer?

In the past, a call to Microsoft was often required to reauthorize the activation code on new hardware, so it's possible that Microsoft customer service will simply stop allowing the reauthorization.

If that happens, the company is sure to see some blowback, but it's already done so much to make Office 365 a better option (and Office 2013 a worse one) that a small vocal minority may not have much impact.

Of course this begs the question, why not simply eliminate the Office 2013 option and force everyone to buy into the Office 365 subscription service? Maybe Microsoft hoped users wouldn't notice the transfer restriction until it was too late? Sometimes the illusion of choice is all that's needed to keep people happy.

For now, Office 365 really is the better, cheaper, more functional option, so in the end, Microsoft may have succeeded.

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