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October 14, 2006

Microsoft Makes Vista Licensing Tougher On Users

New licensing restrictions on retail versions of Vista say users can only transfer licenses between PCs once.

By Gregg Keizer TechWeb

Microsoft has released licenses for the Windows Vista operating system that dramatically differ from those for Windows XP in that they limit the number of times that retail editions can be transferred to another device.

The new licenses, which were highlighted by the Vista team on its official blog Tuesday, add new restrictions to how and where Windows can be used.

"The first user of the software may reassign the license to another device one time. If you reassign the license, that other device becomes the "licensed device," reads the license for Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, and Business. In other words, once a retail copy of Vista is installed on a PC, it can be moved to another system only once.

The new policy is narrower than Windows XP's. In the same section, the license for Windows XP Home states: "You may move the Software to a different Workstation Computer. After the transfer, you must completely remove the Software from the former Workstation Computer." There is no limit to the number of times users can make this move. Windows XP Professional's license is identical.

Although the Vista team's blog did not point out these changes, it did highlight others. "Two notable changes between Windows Vista license terms and those for Windows XP are: 1) failure of a validation check results in the loss of access to specific features; and 2) an increase in our warranty period from 90 days to 1 year, which brings Windows in line with most other Microsoft products," wrote Vista program manager Nick White.

Specifically, the Vista license calls out the ramifications of a failed validation check of Vista.

"The software will from time to time validate the software, update or require download of the validation feature of the software," it reads. "If after a validation check, the software is found not to be properly licensed, the functionality of the software may be affected."

Vista's new anti-piracy technologies, collectively dubbed "Software Protection Platform," have met with skepticism by analysts and criticism by users. Under the new program, a copy of Vista that's judged to be in violation of its license, or is counterfeit, is disabled after a set period, leaving the user access only to the default Web browser, and then only for an hour at a time.

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