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Microsoft Windows 8 licensing changes aim to simplify, but miss target

Microsoft's attempt to simplify the language of the Windows 8 licensing contract causes confusion in some circles.

Microsoft this month issued an update of a key enterprise Windows 8 licensing document that aims to cut back on the document's legalese and make it easier for customers to understand.

However, Microsoft simplified by omitting and changing language in a way that could make Microsoft's August 2012 Product Use Rights (PUR) agreement for Windows 8 even more confusing, said Paul DeGroot, principal consultant at licensing advisory firm Pica Communications LLC in Camano Island, Wash.

For instance, the way the new, "simplified" PUR reads, a customer cannot run Windows 8 on a virtual machine (VM) because the new operating system is licensed to run only on a physical device. Previous language that would have allowed Windows 8 to be run in a VM has been removed. That right was explicit with Windows 7 licensing, but it's not with Windows 8, DeGroot said.

Windows 8 is the first desktop version of the OS to include a client version of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor. If the licensing documentation is interpreted to the letter, someone who wants to install Windows 8 in a hypervisor rather than on the physical device would need to add Software Assurance to the Windows OS on their PC, DeGroot said.

Many IT shops virtualize Windows so that if the OS becomes corrupted, recovery can be accomplished much more quickly. Alternatively, separate VMs can be more easily deployed as test platforms.

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Microsoft licensing guide

In addition, the new PUR removes language that allowed customers to do remote installations of Windows 8 over a network, a common practice that saves help desk personnel and administrators a lot of work, DeGroot said. Only if you add Software Assurance to Windows (for $30 to $55 a year), purchase a Virtual Desktop Access subscription ($88 to $100 a year) or purchase a Windows Intune subscription ($116 to $132 a year) will you be permitted to install a Windows 8 virtual machine, he said.

There are no changes to the virtualization rights available to customers who purchase the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade through Microsoft Volume Licensing versus those for the Windows 7 Professional Upgrade through volume licensing, Microsoft said. "In an effort to condense and simplify the use rights language, where the right to run in either a physical or virtual instance was previously explicitly called out, the right to do so is now implicit within the use rights," the company said.

A similar change was made regarding the networking language. The language regarding network installs was removed from the PUR because the customer agreement permits the distribution of software, making it unnecessary to include in the PUR, according to Microsoft.

But Microsoft might have better served customers if it had explained the language changes upfront, especially because implicit contract changes can lead to misunderstandings and sometimes result in higher license fees, according to DeGroot. "I don't think implicit rights are satisfactory in a contract, particularly where there has been longstanding language in a particular area," he said. "Customers need much better guidance for such changes."

Making certain use rights implicit could leave customers open to licensing violations. "Microsoft may -- and does -- demand additional revenue from customers based on implicit rules where there is no explicit basis for the demand," DeGroot said. Others say Microsoft's licensing language needed to be simplified, as the old end-user licensing agreements were very precise and thus complex to the point of being opaque.

"In language, there is a tradeoff between precision and complexity," said Mark Eisenberg, director at international IT advisory firm Fino Consulting LLC in New York. "They are issuing a license that permits the user to install it on one physical or virtual machine [with no limitations on the host of the VM]," he said. "How much simpler can it get?"

It is still safest to get contract rights down in black and white, Pica Communications' DeGroot said. "They should get written confirmation, and ideally, an amendment to their contract that makes the more generous implicit rights explicit in their contract," he added.

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Plain English should be used for all contractual and government documentation that way there should be NO misinterpretation unless of course English is your second language although that is a whole new ball game…
How do you think Microsoft licensing language could be improved?
it should be simplified for 2 reasons – 1) users don’t read complex EULAs hence they do no good other than for prosecution purposes 2) if a user can understand the language they are more likely to read and abide by the agreement
Simpler, cleaner language to explain the complex issues of license purchasing and usage.
I’m a lawyer and need the income generated from opaque legalese.
I'd prefer the high end synopsis of the license for review and the real lawyer jargon license for reference.
sometimes it’s too complicated!
#Windows8 licensing technically bans #virtualization
Duh. But it also needs to cover relevant details.
In laymen terms not lawyer talk!!
Microsoft needs to step up their game esopecially since there are other alternatives in Apple and Android.
You really have to work to figure out what you can and can't do with respect to virtualization. Why don't they just say what they mean? Hyper-V? Run it free, VMWARE pay extra there. It's more restraint of trade dressed up ilke Intellectual Property protection.
If licensing cannot be explained in a simple diagram it is too complicated.
"Oh, and by the way - if you’re not upgrading from a prior version of Windows and are building your own PC or installing Windows 8 in a virtual machine or a separate partition, you will be able to purchase and install the Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro System Builder product."