Licensing has never been a particularly easy or indeed interesting topic and one of the few disappointments with Windows 7 is that Microsoft has done nothing to simplify their arcane licensing arrangements. We’ll try our best to explain, but this is a fundamentally complex area. Remember, this is about Windows, not Office (Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc.. is a separate product and always has been)!
Let’s look at the three most likely scenarios…
If you are buying a new PC between now and October 22nd
You will almost certainly be buying a machine that has Vista installed on it. Known as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) licence, this licence will entitle you to downgrade to a corresponding version of XP, but at the moment many manufacturers are also extending the OEM licence terms to cover an upgrade to Windows 7 when it comes out in October. Both the XP downgrade and Windows 7 upgrade require some work from you or your IT contractor, the changes won’t happen automatically – when you turn on the PC for the first time, you will still be looking at Windows Vista! NOTE: you can’t transfer this licence to another computer.
If you are buying a new PC after October 22nd
It will almost certainly come with one of the versions of Windows 7 installed as an OEM licence. You’ll need to look carefully at the computer you are buying because its price will be affected by whether it comes with Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate. Home Basic is probably going to only ship on the most basic (as the name suggests) of PCs. Likewise Ultimate will only be on a high-end kit. In most cases then, it’s a straight choice between Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional. Despite the fairly obvious naming convention (which has in fairness been broadly similar for the last 7 or 8 years), some people still think they can save money by buying a PC with the wrong version…only to have to end up paying more later. Suffice to say, if you are buying a computer for HOME use, buy one with a HOME version of Windows 7. If it’s for WORK, look for computers that have the PROFESSIONAL version installed! Not so hard after all then..?
If you are upgrading existing PCs.
These may be machines you’ve had for a while or ones that have just been bought. Either way, for most ESP clients, upgrading 3 or more machines from their ‘native’ OEM entitlements will almost certainly mean buying into Volume licensing as the cheapest option. Volume licensing only sells upgrades! But they don’t ‘stick’ with the same PC, so you can move them to newer PCs provided you dispose of the older ones. In terms of what to buy, we think Microsoft will follow past convention and offer two products under Volume Licensing – an Upgrade to Windows 7 Professional or an Upgrade to Windows 7 with Software Assurance, which will give you the Enterprise Edition. Pricing is not known yet.
If you want to discuss in more detail, please email email@example.com!