Microsoft bails on virtualization licensing changes for Vista

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.

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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 has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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28 comments
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  • Idiots...

    VMware has allowed me to maintain multiple OS's on my workstation - so that I can test, learn, prepare, and maintain a strong working knowledge of all the systems I work with.

    It's insanely useful for bench testing configurations, reproducing bugs, and so much more.

    But now you want more money... not allowing me to legally run Vista virtually without buying the high octane version - that's just stupid.

    You suck Microsoft.
    binaryspiral
    • I believe the license allows for system testing

      I believe the license allows for system testing, just not for routine use.
      georgeou
      • Testing V 'Mundane Use'

        "I believe the license allows for system testing, just not for routine use"

        Really? Please explain how Microsoft would know whether usage had been for 'testing' or 'Mundane use'. Quite obviously any legal dispute over this point would be between 'A user' and the bottomless legal coffers of Microsoft. Ergo, the distinction is completely null and void. No ordinairy user would have the financial resource, or the will, to spend 3 years in court, proving they were 'testing' and not 'mundane using'.
        whisperycat
        • I'm not defending them on this

          I'm not defending them on this, in fact I think Microsoft is insulting people's intelligence when they use the security excuse and I'm blogging about that.

          HOWEVER, let's get real. Microsoft is not going to sue individual end users for breaking their EULA on this. This is strategic to break wholesale virtualization of their OS.
          georgeou
      • No mention of testing in the EULA

        There's nothing I've adsorbed from reading the EULA that allows for testing in a VM. VM = forbidden, except for Ultimate and Enterprise.

        As near as I can tell, this is wishful thinking (and plain common sense!). I was pretty skeptical of the issue at first, myself.
        Bob.Kerns
  • Must have sold another two or three licenses

    And now they think the stampede is on
    for Vista.

    Surprise, surprise, surprise! I don't
    see it happening.
    Ole Man
    • Don't be so silly!

      [i]"And now they think the stampede is on for Vista."[/i]

      Sales of Vista have got nothing to do with whether Vista is any good or not. Sales of Vista simply measure how much hardware has been sold.

      Try buying a PC without Vista as the default OS.
      bportlock
      • PC without Windows...

        http://www.dell.com/content/topics/segtopic.aspx/ubuntu?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&~ck=mn
        mrlinux
        • A PC without Windows...

          ...is one that actually works! :-)
          Henry Miller
        • As I said...

          ...Try buying a PC without Vista as the default OS.

          Even Dell sells the PC with Vista as the default. Yes they sell Linux boxes but show me where they appear on the front page of the Dell website. They are there if you know where to look and most people don't know.
          bportlock
          • re: As I said...

            bportlock said:

            "Even Dell sells the PC with Vista as the default. Yes they sell Linux boxes but show me where they appear on the front page of the Dell website."

            Actually, Dell doesn't show a specific OS on *any* of their products on the "front page" of their web site.

            But if you select the "Home & Home Office Desktops" link (under "Desktops"), and look in the left-hand column on *that* page, under "Essential Links", you will find...wait for it..."Open Source PCs".

            Right under "Dell Financing", Windows Vista", and "Still Looking for Windows XP?".

            Pretty blatant, if you ask me, and it took less than a minute for me to find it.
            M.R. Kennedy
          • Things change

            The last time I looked (a couple of weeks ago) Linux was nowhere to be seen. I was curious to see how "agressively" Dell was pushing the new boxes.

            I'm glad they've moved it up a bit.
            bportlock
  • So that's how they do it

    [i]Microsoft prebriefed a number of news and blogging outlets, including me, about the planned change under non-disclosure.[/i]

    So, that's how they line up the blogsphere and news outlets to coincide with their announcements. Also gives them time to prime the astroturfing pump on the chat boards. Some insight into the great wheel of spin.

    Odd that MSFT is using security as an excuse not to do something. Since when do they care about security? Field a buggy OS but stiff customers on the virtualization license. Talk about strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. With MSFT no matter what they say publicly, you can bet the real reason is money. Your money in their pocket to be specific.
    Chad_z
  • Security is the reason?

    So by this are they saying that Vista Ultimate is secure and all the rest aren't? Hmmmm. I don't buy that excuse.
    crash89
    • Security is the reason, alright!

      Microsoft has not yet "secured" their
      methods of monitoring and controlling
      their OS in a virtual environment.

      As soon as they are able to insure the
      license fee has been paid and control
      what, how, when, how many, on what kind
      of system, and by whom it is being run,
      they might think about changing their
      EULA to allow all versions to run
      virtually.
      Ole Man
  • Maybe it was a check for traitors

    Maybe they never really intended to allow virtualization. What they might have done is given each person under NDA a "keyworded" (i.e. slightly different) announcement. Then sit back and see which version leaks out ahead of the supposed release date. This way, they can identify leakers, without losing advantage in a real news release.
    Knorthern Knight
  • Now wait a minute.....

    [i]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.[/i]

    So if what they say is true, shouldn't there be some sort of examination to see if you have the "advanced level of know how" before they let you buy the "Ultimate" version of Windows at Best Buy?

    I smell a load of BS.
    Hallowed are the Ori
    • I smell a load of BS.

      That's not hard to do--<i>everything</i> from Microsoft reeks of it.
      Henry Miller
      • Message has been deleted.

        M.R. Kennedy
      • Message has been deleted.

        M.R. Kennedy