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Microsoft Responds To Vista License Concerns

Microsoft says Windows Vista's "hardware tolerance" for upgrades has been improved, but there are no current plans to change the specific language in the license.

Amid a rising tide of questions surrounding its end-user license for Windows Vista, Microsoft is attempting to quell concerns that a one-time-only transfer provision could put roadblocks in the way of enthusiasts who repeatedly upgrade their PCs.

In response to a series of questions from TechWeb (transcript below), Microsoft says that the "hardware tolerance of product activation for Windows Vista has been improved and is more flexible." The software giant adds that it has no current plans to change the terms of the Vista license.

The specific Vista license provision that's sparked discussion appears on page seven of the 14-page license under the subhead "Reassign to another device." It reads: "The first user of the software may reassign the license to another device one time."

That's being interpreted by some PC enthusiasts -- the appellation given to tech-savvy users who build and upgrade their own machines -- as going beyond simply limiting the transfer of Vista to a second complete PC. Rather, they believe it'll kick in when they attempt to upgrade their existing machine, perhaps when they add a new graphics card or install a faster processor. That view has gained traction in part because Windows XP has long, in practice, required that users who make significant system hardware changes revalidate their operating system by re-entering their product-key code.

However, in practice, Microsoft's support phone line has typically given XP users the validation code they need to keep their systems going. As well, the issue never reared its head with XP because the language in the license is less specific as regards transfers. However, with Vista, enthusiasts appear concerned that Microsoft's apparent accommodation might not continue.

Typical of the push-back against the license is a comment posted on Microsoft's Vista Team Blog. "I cannot believe that you are going to restrict reinstallation/transfer of Vista licenses to two machines essentially," wrote a user who identified himself only as "anonymous," on Oct. 13. "What is going to happen for the enthusiast market? Ok, I want to upgrade to a new processor in a year. Oh wait... I can't, I just upgraded my hard disk a year ago. Sorry, you have to buy a new license. Have a motherboard burn out, and want to upgrade to a new processor/mobo? Sorry, but you have to get a new license."

The issue broke into wider consciousness when two noted Windows bloggers -- Ed Bott and Paul Thurrott -- weighed in on the subject. Thurrott essentially downplayed the concerns, while Bott called on Microsoft to clarify its position.

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