Monday, 07 July, 2003

Two views of Microsoft's licensing model

When Microsoft released Windows XP, they included a new licensing feature.  You have to activate the software before you can use it.  When it's activated, the software examines the system on which it's installed, makes note of the configuration, and registers with Microsoft's site.  (Yes, I know that's somewhat simplified.)  In any case, if you change your system configuration (upgrade the hard drive or video card, for example), Windows will tell you that you need to re-activate.  If you do that more than once or twice, the software won't automatically re-activate—you need to talk to a Microsoft representative to tell them that you aren't installing on a second machine.  I have two friends who regularly make changes to systems, one of whom hates this new licensing scheme, and one who thinks it's great.  I thought their contrasting viewpoints were interesting.

Ken is a gamer.  He's always upgrading his system, and having to call Microsoft to re-activate the software whenever he switches out the video card drives him nuts.  He's gone back to Windows 2000 because of it.  He'd love to use XP, but the licensing is just too much of a burden.

Dave works for a company that sells and services computers.  He configures computers for clients, maintains the office machines, and is always testing new hardware.  He's on the phone with Microsoft on a regular basis to re-activate a license on one machine or another.  And yet, he doesn't mind.  Why?  Because it keeps him and his business out of trouble.  With the new licensing scheme, there's no way that he can be accused of installing a single copy of Windows XP on multiple computers.  That's a big win for him, because he's "inherited" clients from integrators who played fast and loose with licensing previous versions of Windows and left him to clean up the mess.

What do I think?  In the three years I've had this particular system, I haven't opened the box once.  The new licensing scheme would be no burden at all as far as I'm concerned.  I don't think.  I'll let you know once I install this copy of Windows 2003 on my server.