Irked users seek clarification over Vista licensing

Users need clarification on what Microsoft exactly means when it says you can only transfer Vista licenses once

Windows users have raised concerns about Microsoft's new licensing for Windows Vista that will allow them to transfer a Vista license to only one machine other than the computer for which it was purchased.

The new licensing has caused confusion, especially for power users who rebuild their computers with new components several times a year, or who plan to upgrade their computers more than once in the lifetime of the OS. Users are demanding clarification from Microsoft about how scenarios like these will play out under the new licensing.

"My question about the one time transfer is what constitutes a machine?" asked Windows user Roger Halstead. "I have four machines and they are running legal copies of XP Pro. Those four machines are in a constant state of upgrade. I have to reactivate the OS around three or four times a year due to upgrades."

Halstead said that if he is not allowed to continuously upgrade his machine without purchasing new licenses, then "Vista will not be a viable operating system for me."

"I can stay on XP Pro, which I probably will as long as I can, but what happens when MS no longer supports XP?" he asked. "If I have to do a reinstall, will I be able to get it to work?"

Unfortunately, Microsoft has so far been unable to answer these kinds of questions from users. Contacted Wednesday morning Eastern Daylight Time to clarify Vista's licensing in such an instance, by Thursday morning Microsoft's public relations firm still did not have an answer from the vendor.

Don Smutny, a software developer for the DST Technologies division of DST Systems, considers the one-license transfer a message from Microsoft that "they don't care if you ever run Vista."

He, too, said it's not clear what Microsoft constitutes as a new PC that would require another Vista license purchase. However, with XP, it's considered a license transfer with "every motherboard, CPU or hard-drive upgrade," he said. If Microsoft follows the same tack with Vista, things could get extremely complicated and pricey for users, Smutny said.

He added that this kind of move from Microsoft is the sort of thing that would inspire users to switch to an alternative desktop if it was easy to transfer and use Windows applications on that platform.

"If someone could come up with a Linux distribution that was just as easy to use as XP and included Windows emulation software that would allow users to play their Windows-based games without a large performance hit, then you will finally see the shift of OS use that the Linux folks have been saying is 'coming soon' for the last 10 years," Smutny said.

He's not the only user who is downright angry with Microsoft for its new licensing practice. Another Windows user, Mark Smith, who has his own business developing custom data-acquistiion and analysis packages for industrial applications, said it shows how "arrogant" Microsoft has become.

"It knows that governments (both the U.S. and E.U.) are essentially powerless to effect any changes to the Microsoft status quo," he said via e-mail. "It also knows there are no real competitors (Apple and Linux notwithstanding). So it's new attitude is to hell with the customer, we're going to do whatever we want because the customer has no choice but to buy Vista."

Like Smutny, Smith added that he, too, has been on the lookout for years for a viable alternative to Windows so he does not have to do business with Microsoft.

"I've tried all the competitors and hoped that IBM would have stuck it out and created a viable competitor; they were close," he said. "There certainly is a huge market, so we can always hope."

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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