Microsoft cracks open Windows licensing — a bit — for a BYOD world

Software licensing is a boring topic — unless you’re the IT buyer for a big company and are periodically rendered apoplectic by the arcane (and expensive) enterprise licensing requirements of your software vendors. In that case, software licensing is anything but boring, but it’s still not pleasant.

[company]Microsoft[/company] took a step towards addressing the complaints of business users this week by moving Windows 8.1 licensing for volume buyers to a per user model. That means if Joan Doe has a qualifying Windows license, she can run Windows on any device or devices she wants; her home laptop, her work desktop, her tablet or phone (if they run Windows, which they probably do not, but I digress.) In the past she or her company would often have had to pay for a license for each device.

Per the Microsoft blog post announcing the change:

Now you can license access to Windows Enterprise on a per user basis through the new Windows Software Assurance per User and Windows VDA [virtual desktop access] per User licensing options. These options put your users at the center of your Windows licensing solution, give you flexible options for how you deploy and access Windows across devices, and simplify Windows licensing and management.

This would be a bold move if it weren’t so overdue and riddled with qualifiers, which, according to software licensing expert Paul DeGroot, it is.

DeGroot, principal consultant with Pica Communications, said what Microsoft has done here is extend existing rights, like its companion license that lets a user access a corporate desktop through VDI for use on a companion device.

“There are still too many prerequisites and restrictions,” DeGroot noted via email. “The one thing it’s not is a ‘pure’ user license. You have to have a PC licensed for Windows Pro, and then you need to add [Software Assurance], and then you can buy a User license and use it to put Enterprise on other machines as long as they can run Windows and, in most cases are already licensed for Windows.”

CIOs will probably start feeling a little apoplectic again at this point.

Still, Microsoft is at least being a bit more receptive to customer gripes and perhaps more than a little concerned about potential defections to other platforms.

It also is further recognition of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) wave roiling corporations in which employees want to use their personal gadgets as sanctioned work devices. With the popularity of iPads, iPhones and Android devices in the past few years, Microsoft’s licensing didn’t do it any favors here.

More here from Forrester Research Analyst Duncan Jones and more here on the VDI impact.


New Microsoft per-user licensing for Windows.

New Microsoft per-user licensing for Windows.