Microsoft continues to fine-tune Vista licensing

Summary:Microsoft is offering users who purchase one Vista license -- full or upgrade, purchased either at retail or via a PC-preload deal -- the right to buy multiple additional copies at 10 percent off retail price per copy. At its heart, the promo is just as much, if not more, about fighting piracy as it is about spurring Vista sales.

If you didn't bite on Microsoft's Windows Vista "Family Pack" promo, the Redmondians are hoping to entice you to buy multiple copies of its latest Windows release under another just-launched promotion.

Microsoft is offering users who purchase one Vista license -- full or upgrade, purchased either at retail or via a PC-preload deal -- the right to buy multiple additional copies at 10 percent off retail price per copy. Microsoft explained the details of the latest Vista promotion on the official Vista Team Blog on March 20.

North American customers could begin placing Windows Vista Additional License orders online on March 19. (Phone orders for the Additional License program started February 28, according to the Vista Team Blog posting. Users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa will be able to place online orders for the Additional License deal on March 26. Microsoft has not said when and if the promotional deal will end.

At its heart, like many of Microsoft's Vista promotions, the Vista Additional License program, at its heart, is an anti-piracy play more than an attempt to grow Vista sales.

"Windows Vista requires 1 license per device. When attempting to install and activate the same licensed copy of Windows Vista on another PC, activation won't work," blogged Vista Product Manager Nick White. "When the activation fails, the user is directed to purchase additional licenses online or by phone. Remember, not properly activating Windows Vista will lead to it running in reduced functionality mode, so this new program is a handy way to avoid that situation."

Microsoft launched in January its Vista Family Pack promotion, via which it allowed customers who bought boxed copies of Vista Ultimate Edition to purchase discounted licenses for Vista Home Premium for up to two more PCs in their house.

Last week, Microsoft tweaked the Vista End User License Agreement (EULA), allowing users to transfer legally their copies of Vista purchased via the Windows Anytime Upgrade program from one machine/device to another. According to the Anytime Upgrade FAQ:

"Microsoft is modifying the end user license agreement for full packaged product versions of Windows Vista purchased through a retailer or from Microsoft, and then upgraded using Windows Anytime Upgrade. Under the terms of the modified license agreement, you are now granted the right to uninstall Windows Vista and then reinstall the operating system on a different computer. Provided you uninstall the operating system from your original computing device and do not share the license among multiple devices, you are no longer limited in the number of times that you may reassign the license to different devices."

Back to the new Vista Additional License program. Ten percent off the estimated retail price of Vista seems like a chintzy concession, to me, if Microsoft is trying to convince users they're better off using "Genuine" software rather than software that's not legally licensed (but many users believe they are entitled to because they bought one copy, didn't they?!), why not make the multiple-license deal a little sweeter? Why not 20 percent off? Or even 25 percent?

Topics: Windows


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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