About-Face on Vista Virtualization Licensing

Microsoft has done an about-face on virtualization licensing for Windows Vista and decided to maintain the status quo.

Microsoft was going to announce today that it had loosened up its licensing restrictions regarding what versions of Vista can be run on a virtual machine (VM), allowing the "Home" versions to be run without paying for another license. Mary Jo Foley, a Redmond magazine columnist who blogs about Microsoft for ZDNet, added in a blog entry that "the revised Vista EULA also was going to allow for the use of information-rights management, digital-rights management and BitLocker encryption in virtualized environments."

But Microsoft has had a sudden change of heart. In a brief e-mail statement to the Redmond Media Group, the company stated its decision:

"Microsoft has reassessed the Windows virtualization policy and decided that we will maintain the original policy announced last Fall."

No further details were given.

Basically, the only versions of Vista that can be legally used on a VM are the business editions: Business and Ultimate. Home Basic and Home Premium aren't eligible.

Scott Braden, a Microsoft licensing consultant and columnist for, said the abrupt change could be due to miscommunication within Microsoft.

"It seems like it could be a classic case of the right hand not talking to the left within Microsoft. They do these about-faces pretty frequently," he said.

Braden, in fact, said Microsoft's initial decision to broaden the licensing terms was at odds with its normal practice.

"I was surprised they'd even consider opening [Vista licensing in VMs] up more than what they had in the fall." Braden explained that with products like OSes, new versions like Vista are usually subject to tighter licensing restrictions instead of looser ones.

Braden does not feel, however, that the decision will have any significant impact on Microsoft's bottom line. "I can't imagine this being a blip on anybody's earning statement," Braden said. Businesses, he continued, would be using the business editions of Vista, while the typical home user, who is being cut out of the licensing option in this case, doesn't use VMs.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].