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A look at Vista's geek-surly licensing

Windows VistaAh, EULAs. Can live with them, can't be bothered to read them. TechWeb has an illuminating overview of what's new in Windows Vista's end-user license agreement, i.e. that thing you never read before clicking "I Agree." Of course, there's plenty of new stuff that you can't do. To begin with, Microsoft forbids you from transferring the OS to another machine more than once. Whereas you could transfer your copy of XP to a new computer as often as you wanted (as long as you took it off the old one), Vista says no, after the second one you've got to buy a new license. Ergo, if you've built your own machine and plan on upgrading your motherboard regularly, prepare to shell out for a new copy of Vista the second time you do. Secondly, Microsoft has forbidden installing Vista Home or Vista Home Premium on a virtual machine like VMware or Parallels. If you want to do that you'll have to pay for Windows Vista Business or Ultimate, which will retail for $299 and $399, respectively, though I rather doubt Microsoft has any way to actually enforce this. Lastly, Vista's license spells out its right to "phone home" to Microsoft and require validation whenever it feels like it, and the ramifications if validation fails for any reason: "The software will from time to time validate the software, update or require download of the validation feature of the software. If after a validation check, the software is found not to be properly licensed, the functionality of the software may be affected."

To be honest, these ugly restrictions won't have much affect on the average home user, but could they be any more geek-unfriendly? Surly restrictions like this piss off power-users, who are the people those average Joes turn to when they want to know what kind of computer to buy. Microsoft is sure to make a pretty penny on Vista, but at what cost?

Update: This article at MacInTouch points out another wrinkle: If you use Vista Business or Ultimate inside a virtual machine, you are forbidden from accessing DRM-protected media: "You may use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system. 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." [Via Boing Boing]

Update 2: ZDNet's Ed Bott sheds some doubt on the Home virtualization issue, saying that TechWeb and others misinterpreted the license. He says, in short, that virtualization is perfectly fine for Vista Home, but you must have a license for each virtual machine just as with XP. However, if you shell out for Vista Ultimate or Business, "you can load another copy of that same OS, using the same product key, in a virtual machine on that same computer." Which would be a huge perk for power-users willing to put up the extra cash. Hopefully someone from Microsoft will chime in sooner or later with a difinitive clarification.

Tags: commercial, eula, license, microsoft, osupdates, restrictions, techweb, windows, windows vista, WindowsVista