Some Interesting Elements of Windows 8 Pricing and Licensing

As part of writing and tracking the products used for any book, including Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference, I consider the pricing and licensing the reader can expect. Readers often contact me with product availability and pricing questions because it’s important to obtain the right product to use my books. Microsoft changes the packaging, licensing, and pricing of each new version of Windows, so one of the tasks I performed while writing the book was to keep up with the current licensing and packaging changes.

One of the issues with the current licensing strategies for Windows 8 is the loss of the activation grace period. Windows 8 activates differently, so Microsoft has had to change the way the entire installation process works. According to ComputerWorld (and verified by my recent installation of the RTM version), you must provide a key as part of the installation process. It’s impossible to bypass the key input as was allowed by previous version of Windows. The moment that Windows 8 detects an Internet connection, it authenticates the key and activates your product. The only way to evaluate Windows 8 is to get the trial version (good for 90 days, rather than the 120 days Microsoft allowed in the past). However, here’s the rub. You can’t update the trial version of Windows 8. If you decide that you want to obtain a licensed copy, you must wipe out your trial version and install the licensed copy from scratch. Online sources, like NetworkWorld, are already discussing the inconvenience of Microsoft’s new strategy. The main reason I’m presenting this information to you is that you should be prepared to backup your settings and start from scratch if you choose to use the trial version when reading my book and later choose to obtain a licensed copy.

In addition to changing the activation process and how you work with the product key, Microsoft also tried to rework the licensing terms to make them easier to understand. Unfortunately, according to SearchEnterpriseDesktop, the changes have only made the licensing harder to understand. According to the article, the licensing terms (also known as the Product Use Rights, or PUR) appear to make it illegal to run your standard copy of Windows 8 on a Virtual Machine (VM). Later the article says that you can install Windows 8 on a VM if you make an additional purchase, such as Software Assurance—a type of volume license. Other changes make it illegal to install your copy of Windows over a network connection (amongst other things). I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll probably read a number of these postings to figure out whether this particular claim is true.

The problem is that the various sites are contradicting each other and Microsoft hasn’t posted an easy to understand discussion of the topic. For example, when you read Ed Bott’s post on the same subject, you learn that it may be acceptable to install your copy of Windows 8 on a VM after all. Whether something is allowed or not seems to depend on the interpretation offered by the particular person reading the licensing agreement. Personally, I find it hard to believe that Microsoft is going to take the time to ensure no one is running their copy of Windows 8 on a VM and that Microsoft is also smart enough to know this. I tend to agree with Ed Bott in this case in assuming that installation on a VM is probably acceptable, but you should read the agreement yourself and make a decision based on how you view it.

Of course, everyone seems to assume that Microsoft has made these changes as a way of getting more money from each copy of Windows 8 it sell. I’m not sure what to think, except that it’s likely an attempt to make things better that didn’t work as planned. If you’re an administrator who needs to install a number of copies of Windows 8, it’s going to be a good idea to work through these new licensing terms before you make any assumptions about them. Home and small business users probably won’t see any differences because this group won’t typically run afoul of the new terms. I’m certain that Microsoft will provide an update on the licensing terms at some point that will clarify what it means by them to everyone, so don’t assume the worst for the time being.

What I’m most interested in finding out is how you perceive these new licensing terms. Do you think that these terms are a deal breaker? Will you end up spending a lot more time or money trying to get Windows 8 installed as a result of the new terms? Let me know your thoughts on this matter at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.