Pressure forces Microsoft to change Vista licensing

Enthusiast uproar forces rethink of restrictive policy

Customer concerns over changes to Windows Vista licensing that limited a transfer of the license to only one machine have inspired Microsoft Corp. to revise the licensing policy for the upcoming operating system.

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

However, to continue to discourage 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 operating system raised a fuss. They demanded clarification from the vendor about how scenarios like these would play out under the new licensing.

According to Shanen Boettcher, a Windows general manager at Microsoft, the company thinks it's 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 said. Boettcher said 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 sell those to other users.

"This is a definite improvement over the original licensing terms, and I'm glad Microsoft has relented," said Don Smutny, a Windows user and software developer for a large IT company in the Midwestern U.S. 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.

More information about the license changes can be found on Microsoft's site.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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