A View From The Handbasket

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Microsoft tightens the noose
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:20 PM

Faced with countless pirated copies of XP roaming the seedier parts of Internetville, the army of lawyers at Microsoft had two choices as it crafted the license terms for Vista. It could encourage legal use by allowing flexible, consumer-friendly usage. Or, it could make the terms to onerous that they'd be ignored and/or flaunted.

Guess which one they chose?

If Redmond is to salvage its reputation as a nickel-and-diming Evil Empire, it could do far worse to start than to make nice with the most enthusiastic PC users, who often build their own boxes from individual components. Rather than an olive branch, Microsoft extends to them a closed fist:

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.”

So, every other time you build a new machine, or buy a new machine that didn't come with Vista bundled (like, say, a dual-boot-capable Mac), you get to pay for Vista all over again. This makes sense only if you repeatedly bash yourself in the skull with a copy of the Windows Server 2003 Administrator's Companion.

Another thing that geeks like to do is run OSes in virtual machines. For many, running Windows in a VM under a Unix or Mac system is very convenient and powerful. Microsoft has a middle finger ready for them, too. If you somehow resist the allure of Windows Vista Ultimate (which will set you back a cool $399 -- per two machine upgrades) and settle for the more pedestrian Home or Home Premium flavors, you'll be greeted with this thank-you:

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

Thank you for paying money for software when you could have easily pirated it. Oh, and screw you.

However, those who pony up for the full Ultimate experience will get this grudging concession from the MS crew:

USE WITH VIRTUALIZATION TECHNOLOGIES. You may use the software installed on the
licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed device. If
you do so, you may not play or access content or use applications protected by any Microsoft digital,
information or enterprise rights management technology or other Microsoft rights management
services or use BitLocker. We advise against playing or accessing content or using applications
protected by other digital, information or enterprise rights management technology or other rights
management services or using full volume disk drive encryption.

If you were concerned that Vista might offer something more compelling for XP users than a thick layer of DRM, you can rest easy.

Finally, this might be my favorite, if only for its humor value:

SCOPE OF LICENSE. The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some
rights to use the software. Microsoft reserves all other rights. Unless applicable law gives you more
rights despite this limitation, you may use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement.
In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use
it in certain ways. For more information, see http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/userights. You
may not work around any technical limitations in the software.

Any bets as to how many Vista upgrades Microsoft will actually sell? Clearly, it will reach critical mass at some point as Dell and HP and everyone else stop shipping XP in favor of the new flesh, but how many real users are actually gung-ho about this thing?

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