Microsoft bails on virtualization licensing changes for Vista

Summary:Microsoft almost tweaked its licensing terms for Windows Vista yet again -- this time in order to ease virtualization restrictions that irked a number of customers and partners. But in the eleventh hour, company officials decided against the move, resulting in Microsoft cancelling its planned announcement.

Microsoft almost tweaked its licensing terms for Windows Vista yet again -- this time in order to ease virtualization restrictions that irked a number of customers and partners. But in the eleventh hour, company officials decided against the move, resulting in Microsoft cancelling its planned announcement.

Microsoft officials were preparing to announce officially on June 20 that Microsoft had a change of heart and would allow users to run all versions of Windows Vista in a virtualized environment. Microsoft prebriefed a number of news and blogging outlets, including me, about the planned change under non-disclosure.

Currently, Microsoft's end-user license agreement (EULA) specifies that users can run only the Business and Ultimate versions of Vista in virtual machines from Microsoft and other vendors.

The revised Vista EULA also was going to allow for the use of information-rights management, digital-rights management and BitLocker encryption in virtualized environments, according to Microsoft officials.

Microsoft attributed the original Vista virtualization restrictions to potential security risks, claiming that "security researchers have shown hardware virtualization technology to be exploitable by malware" and claimed Vista required an advanced level of know-how to thwart such virtualization exploits.

Microsoft told me earlier this week that the company decided to change its position as a result of "an increasing awareness of the security issues associated with hardware virtualization" over the past two months. System vendors are shipping machines with hardware virtualization turned off in order to decrease the potential attack surface, they said. And last but not least, "we received ongoing feedback from virtualization enthusiasts, press, partners and analysts recognizing the security issues but asking Microsoft to reconsider moving toward more customer choice," said a company spokesman, via a prepared statement.

Then things went awry. Late on June 19, a Microsoft spokesperson sent me via e-mail the following statement:

“Microsoft has reassessed the Windows virtualization policy and decided that we will maintain the original policy announced last Fall. "

Ouch.

Microsoft has tweaked Vista's licensing terms several times since last fall. In November 2006, Microsoft changed the terms dictating how retail licenses could be transferred between machines. In March 2007, Microsoft made additional changes to the Vista EULA around its additional copies promotion.

Why do you think Microsoft changed its mind and decided not to go with more liberal virtualization licensing terms for Vista? Does its decision to maintain its original virtualization licensing terms impact you?

Topics: Virtualization, Microsoft, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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