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Windows Vista and the EULA of Doom

Mike Doolittle's picture

Much has been made of the EULA for Vista by enthusiasts who are angry at what they perceive as significantly greater restrictions on their shiny new operating system. I've heard both sides of the argument and while I'm no lawyer and I don't think Microsoft's EULA is the most user-conscious thing around, I think much of the negative hype has been overblown.

First of all, while I can understand the gripes about some harsh EULAs, you can't entirely blame Microsoft; blame instead all the idiots that have been pirating Windows and other Microsoft software for years. Piracy can cost a company like Microsoft a substantial amount of revenue, and while some people might argue that Microsoft losing revenue might not be such a bad thing, that isn't really the point. I know how easy it is to pirate Windows. I have an old PC sitting in my closet with the "Russian Street Edition" of both Windows XP and Office 2003. Three bucks for a piece of software that normally runs for a couple hundred? Just tell me which prostitute to pick it up from! Unfortunately such actions create a ripple effect that is felt throughout the industry. I don't even pirate music these days, much less software.

The biggest problem seems to be the issue of how many times you can transfer the license to a new computer – that is, one. The question is why this is really such a big deal. Vista will actually have looser criteria to evaluate whether a hardware change has been made. It's not like you're going to swap out some RAM or a graphics card, or even change hard drives and be forced to buy a new copy of Vista.

The biggest indicator for Vista that you've changed computers is when you change your motherboard. Now, according to Microsoft, roughly 90% of the PC market doesn't even buy stand-alone operating systems; they buy it pre-configured on a PC. Even among hardcore PC enthusiasts that upgrade often, how often do you change your entire system platform? A new motherboard also means a new processor and new RAM. That's not an upgrade people do very often, and even when they do, they can still transfer it to their new rig.

As for those few who do constantly change out their platform, well, if you can spend that much of your disposable income on your PC, you've probably got enough cash to buy a new OS every now and then too. Vista Home Premium will be just over $200 retail; the OEM price will likely be much lower, as it usually is.

Granted, I don't know why Microsoft is setting the two-PC limit. As long as you've completely removed the software from your old PC, I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to transfer it to a new PC as many times as you want. It's an arbitrary and stupid restriction, yes. It's also not that big of a deal.

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I built my own PC from parts

I built my own PC from parts specifically in order to game, in substantial part because it's significantly cheaper than buying prebuilt. I have for various reasons had to change my motherboard at least four times in the last four to five years. From malfunction to needing a faster CPU than the old board supported to needing a new type of CPU, and soon I'll want to move to a fully PCI-E oriented board with support for the new variety of RAM (DDR2) and a better chipset. This does not normally represent a significant expense - you can get wonderfully functional motherboards for as little as 30-50 dollars, depending on what you need to do. Even if you're plumping out for the CPU (something I've never bothered doing to any great extent, maxing out at perhaps 100-150 dollars at the most and usually cheaper.) And it's almost certainly going to be something anyone comfortable inside their computer is going to want to do multiple times over the life of an operating system, and depending on circumstances, may be forced to by mischance. Having to repurchase Vista every time would be a major expense and one that I, for one, cannot afford. I think it very likely that this will encourage greater piracy, not less.

Also, the technologically inclined may not constitute a substantial portion of Microsoft's userbase, but they're the most likely early Vista adopters and Microsoft is certainly trying hard to bring in the gaming market with things like DX10 and XNA. These are exactly the people most harmed by this particular arbitrary and stupid provision.

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