Microsoft Adjusts Windows Vista License

In response to complaints from users that the new Windows Vista End User License Agreement was too restrictive, Microsoft announced on Thursday that it would change the license. The new license wording is now more similar to that of Windows XP, which appeared to be less restrictive.

Previously, the Vista EULA had stated that customers who purchased a retail version of the product could reassign the software "to another device one time." Now, the license reads as follows: "You may uninstall the software and install it on another device for your use. You may not do so to share this license between devices."

In a briefing earlier today, Microsoft told me that the new wording means that a user can reassign a single retail version of Windows Vista as often as they like. That is, they can move a single copy of Vista from machine to machine indefinitely as long as they always uninstall the previous installation. Microsoft says that the change should address complaints from the enthusiast community while protecting the company from piracy.

Last month, Microsoft's new Vista license was the subject of much debate, as online pundits and reporters speculated about the meaning of the original EULA changes. But Microsoft says it never intended to restrict users and was only clarifying a vague clause of the previous Windows license. It also argued--and continues to argue--that this clause of the Vista EULA applies to only a tiny minority of users. Most Windows users will obtain Vista with a new PC, and those licenses cannot be transferred under any circumstances. And of those users who do purchase Windows at retail, only a very small fraction ever attempt to transfer Windows to a second PC.

"This policy will change will affect a small number of customers, but we are optimistic that this change strikes the right balance for our retail customers," a Microsoft representative told me. "This change to give hardware enthusiasts the latitude to upgrade their PCs or reassign their license to a new PC, while still making clear our intentions to protect our software from piracy."

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