Pressure Forces Microsoft to Change Vista Licensing

Customer concerns over changes to Windows Vista licensing that would limit a transfer of the license to only one machine have moved Microsoft to revise the operating system licensing policy.

Microsoft said today it has changed the retail license terms for Vista so that customers now may uninstall the OS from one machine and install it on another as many times as they want. The new terms do away with limitations on the number of new devices to which the license can be transferred.

However, to continue the discouragement of piracy, Microsoft has worded the license so that it is clear that users cannot "share this license between devices."


When the new licensing was disclosed several weeks ago, power users who rebuild their computers with new components several times a year or who plan to upgrade their computers more than once in the lifetime of the OS raised a fuss. They demanded clarification from the vendor about how scenarios like these would play out under the new licensing. PC World readers were among those who really sounded off.

According to Shanen Boettcher, a Windows general manager at Microsoft, the company thinks it has come up with an answer to placate those users without encouraging software piracy, which the original change was designed to thwart.

"We think this clarification strikes the right balance," he says. Boettcher says the piracy problem has nothing to do with "the enthusiast community that was sending me e-mails," but with people who install one licensed copy of Windows on many machines and then sell those to other users.

"This is a definite improvement over the original licensing terms, and I'm glad Microsoft has relented," says Don Smutny, a Windows user and software developer for a large IT company in the midwestern United States. However, he still is not convinced there aren't other hidden complications within Vista's license that will have to be addressed later.

The change in policy will not affect consumers who purchase their Windows license preinstalled on a PC from a hardware manufacturer. No license transfers are allowed in those cases.

Information about license changes for any Microsoft product is available on Microsoft's site, though Vista details may not be available right away.

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