Despite the buzz on the Internet(s), Vista licensing will be similar to XP
There has been much speculation and many rumors floating around concerning licensing and license transfers with Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system. Paul Thurrott is looking to dispel some of the myths surrounding Vista licensing and has written a rather in-depth article on the matter.
First off, according to the EULA for Windows Vista, a user may "reassign the [Windows Vista] license to another device one time." Many have tried to say that this limits Vista in comparison to its five-year old predecessor, Windows XP. In reality, it's the same policy as before -- Microsoft has just clarified its position. Paul Thurrott reports:
Since you can't transfer a copy of Windows that comes with a new PC anyway, less than 10 percent of all Windows licenses are transferable at all. And of those, only a tiny percentage of users have ever tried to even transfer a Windows license once. The only people that really need to do this regularly are hardcore PC enthusiasts who change their machine configurations regularly...And if you do actually have a catastrophic PC failure, you'll be able to transfer your license just as before. The process, as it turns out, hasn't changed at all. "The escalation process is exactly the same in Vista," Boettcher told me. "You have to call support. It just wasn't clear in Windows XP.
As far as how adding and removing hardware components will affect activation, Vista will operate in a similar manner to Windows XP -- and in most cases, it won't be as picky. For enthusiasts out there who often upgrade hardware components, replacing memory, upgrading your video card, or changing out your processor won't set off any major alarms with Vista. Two component changes that will cause Vista to stand up take notice, however, are changes to the motherboard and hard drive. In that case, if automatic electronic reactivation does not occur, you will be prompted to call Microsoft support to reactivate your installation over the phone. This, again, is no different than what was required with Windows XP.
The final topic that Thurrott addresses is the issues of virtualization licensing. In this case, any version of Windows Vista will be able to host virtual machines. On the other hand, only Windows Vista Business and Ultimate will be eligible to serve as guest operating systems in a virtual machine:
You cannot install Windows Vista Home Basic or Home Premium in a virtual machine, at least from a legal standpoint. (There is nothing technical preventing you from doing so, of course.) And on a related note, each retail copy of Vista you purchase is only licensable for one install. If you install a copy of Windows Vista in a virtual machine and then activate it, you cannot install the same copy of Vista on a physical machine and reactivate it (unless you take advantage of the transfer rights mentioned above, of course). One license equals one installation.
The more things change, the more things stay the same. One thing to take from all of this is that for better or worse, Microsoft's licensing scheme with Vista is more or less similar to Windows XP.