Vista could cost upgrade enthusiasts serious money

Vista could cost upgrade enthusiasts serious money

Summary: Here's a scary Halloween thought - Upgrading to Windows Vista could see upgrade enthusiasts having to purchase additional licenses.I'm still trying to find out how tolerant or intolerant product activation for Windows Vista is going to be, and to be honest, I don't really feel like I'm getting anywhere.

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TOPICS: Windows
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Here's a scary Halloween thought - Upgrading to Windows Vista could see upgrade enthusiasts having to purchase additional licenses.

Halloween
Credit: Vexentricity.com

I'm still trying to find out how tolerant or intolerant product activation for Windows Vista is going to be, and to be honest, I don't really feel like I'm getting anywhere.

[poll id=7]

No clear guidelines from Microsoft on how to upgrade while keeping your Windows license valid Let me rewind a little and give you the background.  Microsoft has made some significant changes to the Windows Vista retail license agreement.  Specifically, it has add some clauses that have caused concern among enthusiasts who like to upgrade their PCs on a regular basis (I'm one of those enthusiasts who regularly upgrades their PC).  Here are the clauses (I've taken a closer look at the EULA in this earlier post):

15. REASSIGN TO ANOTHER DEVICE.
a. Software Other than Windows Anytime Upgrade. The first user of the software may reassign the license to another device one time. If you reassign the license, that other device becomes the “licensed device.”
b. Windows Anytime Upgrade Software. The first user of the software may reassign the license to another device one time, but only if the license terms of the software you upgraded from allows reassignment.

16. TRANSFER TO A THIRD PARTY.
a. Software Other Than Windows Anytime Upgrade. The first user of the software may make a one time transfer of the software, and this agreement, directly to a third party. The first user must uninstall the software before transferring it separately from the device. The first user may not retain any copies.
b. Windows Anytime Upgrade Software. You may transfer the software directly to a third party only with the licensed device. You may not keep any copies of the software or any earlier version.
c. Other Requirements. Before any permitted transfer, the other party must agree that this agreement applies to the transfer and use of the software. The transfer must include the proof of license.
[emphasis added]

So I asked for clarification.  Specifically, I wanted information as to how Windows Vista examines hardware changes and how it determines if reactivation is required.  Yesterday I got the following response from a Microsoft spokesperson:

The hardware tolerance of product activation for Windows Vista has been improved and is more flexible than that for Windows XP. We believe these improvements will better accommodate the needs of our PC enthusiast customers.

When hardware components are changed, Microsoft's product activation process compares information derived from the initial validation, which includes the hardware configuration of the device, against the changes that have been made. This process uses an algorithm to help assess whether the software is installed on the same device. Validation will fail if the software detects a substantially different hardware configuration. At that point, the customer is able to use the one reassignment for the new device. If, after using its one reassignment right, a customer again exceeds the tolerance for updated components, the customer can purchase an additional license or seek remediation through Microsoft's support services.

I don't know if this statement was supposed to put my mind at rest, but one sentence really worries me:

If, after using its one reassignment right, a customer again exceeds the tolerance for updated components, the customer can purchase an additional license or seek remediation through Microsoft's support services. [emphasis added]

Seriously?  Upgrade your PC and you might have to buy a new Vista license.  Are Microsoft having a laugh?  I can see absolutely no reason whatsoever that this restriction would apply to a retail copy of Vista.  With an OEM copy it makes sense, after all, Microsoft is selling these at a discounted rate, but given the price of a retail copy of Windows, these restrictions mean that retail copies are no longer worth the additional cost.

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I followed up that statement with more questions.  Specifically:

  • "Validation will fail if the software detects a substantially different hardware configuration."  Is there any hard and fast data on this.  How much can be changed?  Over what period?  XP has a system where is allows certain changes over time and I'm assuming Vista will be the same, but I can't find any definitive data on this.
  • "or seek remediation through Microsoft's support services."  This sounds like a gray area.  I'm again assuming that this is a similar process to XP when activation fails - you contact product support.  Is there a written policy or official statement I can refer to here?  Or is it arbitrary?
  • The Vista EULA mention a transfer of the license to a third party.  Is this transfer in addition to the one reassignment right?

The response - Microsoft have no further comment to make on this issue.  So there you have it.  No clear guidelines from Microsoft on how to upgrade while keeping your Windows license valid.

This leads me to conclude that either:

  • Microsoft doesn't have a clear policy (despite wanting to make us believe that it does through channels such as Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows)
  • That any policy is going to be a flexible one with no published guidelines

Neither of these bode well for PC enthusiasts using Vista.  The message seems to be that if you upgrade too many times, or make an upgrade that significantly changes your PC more than once, then you'll need to add a new Vista license to your upgrade shopping list.

Off the record, a number of senior Microsoft employees have expressed severe doubts about the restrictive nature of the Windows Vista EULA, believing that damaging confidence among the small, but influential, enthusiast market could have a negative effect on overall Vista take-up.

Another questions that I've been asked is does the new Vista EULA allow for Vista to be run on an Intel Mac.  My first impression was no, because that falls under virtualization.  Then I read up more about BootCamp and I changed my mind.  However, having read even more about BootCamp I'm back to thinking that maybe, just maybe, the EULA for Windows Vista Home Basic and Home Premium prohibits installing them onto an Intel Mac using BootCamp.  Why?  Because BootCamp relies on a bootloader and a BIOS compatibility module added to the EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface, a replacement for the BIOS). 

Let's refer to the EULA again:

USE WITH VIRTUALIZATION TECHNOLOGIES. You may not use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system. [my emphasis added]

Windows Vista 32-bit doesn't natively support EFI (XP and Vista 64-bit does, as does Windows Server 2003 ands some Linux distros), so it's possible that BootCamp fall into the category of virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system.

Topic: Windows

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63 comments
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  • MSVista on Mac PC

    Bad idea. MSVista overwrites pretty much anything in the boot chain. Not just at installation, apparently at every boot.

    Putting MSVista on the same drive as MacOS has a good chance of hosing the MacOS. You're probably better off using removable drives so that they're not in the same box at the same time.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • XP may be my last stop

    I think that XP is as fat as I care to get on a pc, and this new EULA sort of puts the last rail down for me.

    If I buy a new computer with Vista on it, so be it. I might consider downgrading during the purchase process though.

    At this point, until Mozilla drops support for XP, I'll probably run Windows OS's.

    By then, perhaps Kubuntu will be user friendly enough to simply switch ... now that we're getting wireless driver support in the linux kernel too ...
    wizec
    • By then

      [i]By then, perhaps Kubuntu will be user friendly enough to simply switch ... now that we're getting wireless driver support in the linux kernel too .[/i]

      Depending on the wireless card in question, it's been there for several years. The ThinkPad with Intel kit has been running wireless out of the box since I got it a couple of years ago.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
    • mine too

      I'll build my next computer. No Visduh preinstalled for me.
      Hugh G. Rection
      • Deja vu all over again

        [i]I'll build my next computer. No Visduh preinstalled for me.[/i]

        If I only had a dime for everyone who said that in the lead-up to MSWinXP -- and is saying it again now for MSVista.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • No dime from me.

          I don't care what you believe or disbelieve.
          Hugh G. Rection
        • my last stop

          was win2k, have built every computer I've owned since 93, used XP on other peoples computers but nothing was 'exciting' enough to use or buy it. It is OEM installed on my wifes system though. MS got the last money from me when I bought 2k.

          went from dos 3.1 to dos5.0, to win98, to win2k as the only MS OS I've used, used slack 2.0, redhat, then suse, still use SUSE, only in w2k to scan.

          Ken
          merc2dogs`
      • Wise move

        This is a good approach. The last two cheap boxes I've purchased have come with xp installed. When I installed Suse on one and Fedora on the other, I 'freed up' two xp licenses, no?

        So MS is already selling more OS's than people are using. The XP license is just a 'lazy' tax. If I had taken the time to build up the system, it wouldn't have happened.
        Just Watching Now
    • XP won't be the last - with automatic updates

      Automatic updates have added a new dimension to "end-of-life" products. Previously, Microsoft was only able to "discontinue" support, and let the products die of old age.

      With automatic updates, Microsoft merely has to download a patch with disables the OS. Ta-da, instant upgrade demand.

      But I'm sure this would never occur to them.
      Just Watching Now
    • XP-last stop

      For sure it's mine, as is this PC. I have no reason to upgrade just to upgrade. I'm not a gamer, all I need to do is run P'shop CS and my other graphic apps, and send email. What I have now does it quite well.
      starman_gary
    • XP should be my last too...

      I agree with the "last rail" comment. I build all of my systems (since 95) & this 1 transfer thing kills it for me. I understand that piracy is bad, but WGA phoning home & wanting validation every time you want a non-critical update is way over the top. I could deal if my OS were validated once, just to prove it's not pirated, but I can't see the sense in every time.
      I'm by no means a Linux expert, & I've been running Ubuntu on my 3rd (spare, wired) PC just to get used to it. I like it a lot, plus no annoying validation crap. Only problem is, I can't find a way to make my wireless card work. I know there's a workaround, but I can't seem to get it right, no matter how I try. I can do (& have done) anything on a Win box, but this Linux wireless problem has me insane (more than normal). If I can get some help or recommendations (cards to use, etc.)(r.b.mazzeo@verizon.net), I'll be the newest complete Linux convert. Any ideas? Drop me a line.
      BTW, I noticed that someone mentioned the IBM Thinkpad working out of the box. That's cool, but I'm afraid I will need 1 working Win PC, & that will have to be my laptop (work & such). I always get a laptop with the OS installed but I'm specifically referring to a tower PC for my Linux needs...just an fyi for anyone who would like to help a realtive Linux newbie out...Thanx.
      rmazzeo
  • Enthusiasts

    Hey, we're talking about people who spend more on a video card than most people do on a whole computer.

    Maybe Microsoft figures that this amounts to "Microsoft tax evasion" and has decided to get a cut?

    One way or another, the "enthusiast community" may be influential but it appears that Microsoft shares my doubts that they have enough influence to put a dent in MS' monopoly.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • It makes business sense

      There's no gain, no profit to be made by Microsoft when an enthusiast upgrades his/her computer. However, there's a nice profit to be made when someone buys a new computer. So, the obvious strategy is to make it as difficult as possible to do hardware upgrades and just push consumers toward purchasing new systems.
      tic swayback
      • True ...

        ... but as Microsoft themselves admit, it's a small market, so the return is likely to be small.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • Related questions

          What does it cost Microsoft to (manually) allow another re-activation?

          Assuming that MS simply automates the whole process of allowing some licenses to be transferred once, what is the business case for making exceptions?
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Cost

            "What does it cost Microsoft to (manually) allow another re-activation?"

            Call center, staff, calls ... negligible overall for a company as big as Microsoft, especially since it is outsourced.
            Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • Belittling the difference

            [i]Call center, staff, calls ... negligible overall for a company as big as Microsoft, especially since it is outsourced.[/i]

            It doesn't matter how large Microsoft is. If each support call costs $5 [1], it only takes a few to totally eat the ~$50 that MS makes on a per-copy basis from retail or OEM sales. If "a few" two or is it twenty? As the punch line goes, "we've already established that, now we're just bargaining over the price."

            [1] Unrealistically low, according to the numbers I've seen for OEMs.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Activation related calls ...

            Which go through to a separate unit, are gonna cost a LOT less than $5.
            Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • If True, then...

          If the market is small, then the negative impact of allowing upgrades is negligible, and easily overpowered by the negative public perception. Therefore it makes no economic sense for Microsoft to impose draconian restrictions.
          dave.leigh@...
      • The neighborhood enthusiast...

        ...Is the go-to-guy on the block when it comes to home users and their finiky computer.

        If enough of the neighborhood 'experts' start using Linux, guess what they'll be recomending to the home users they help?

        -Mike
        Spikey_Mike