Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Unwritten Rule Gives Away Windows 10 for Free

Windows 10
Licensing agreements with Microsoft follow two sets of rules, the written and the unwritten.

It is safe to assume that the written document was drafted and reviewed several times by Microsoft’s legal experts with very few wiggle rooms. This will be fully aimed primarily at Microsoft's commercial customers and its PC-building partners, who account for more than 98 percent of all revenue from Windows desktop licenses.

What is more interesting is the other 2 percent. The unwritten rule is intended for hobbyists, enthusiasts, and IT pros who like to tinker with Windows and PC hardware. Microsoft's TechNet program was a long-running gift to this group, offering thousands of dollars' worth of Microsoft software for a few hundred bucks.

The Windows Insider program is being run in that same spirit.

Microsoft sometimes makes a public statement tacitly (and carefully) acknowledging those unwritten rules. That happened a few days ago, with an announcement on Microsoft's official Windows blog outlining what's next for registered members of Microsoft's Windows Insider program:
"Windows Insiders running the Windows 10 Insider Preview (Home and Pro editions) with their registered MSA connected to their PC will receive the final release build of Windows 10 starting on July 29th. This will come as just another flight. I've gotten a lot of questions from Windows Insiders about how this will work if they clean installed from ISO. As long as you are running an Insider Preview build and connected with the MSA you used to register, you will receive the Windows 10 final release build and remain activated. Once you have successfully installed this build and activated, you will also be able to clean install on that PC from final media if you want to start over fresh."
In the last update, it was pointed by Tom Warren of the Verge points out that the post was edited overnight to change the wording, removing both references to activation.

The statement now reads,
"Those edits, of course, simply muddle the description and were clearly added at the insistence of one or more of the aforementioned lawyers. In fact, the last sentence contradicts everything that came before it in the paragraph. I am confident that no change is going to be made to the delivery and activation servers for Windows 10. But at least the folks in L&C are now happy.

It's also worth noting comments on that post are closed, which prevents customers from asking for clarification.

Update 2, June 21 12:15PM PDT: On Twitter today, a day after these legalese changes were made, Microsoft's Gabe Aul confirmed that registered members of the Windows Insider program who upgrade from a clean install of the preview edition will end up with a fully activated copy of Windows 10."
Ed Bott for The Ed Bott Report believed that it is no accident that the post, even as edited, makes no mention of the Windows license. Instead, it's a reflection of the fact that those unwritten rules have to remain unwritten. So, with a wink and a nod, here's what it means to individuals who aren't PC builders or part of an enterprise network:
  • Yes, anyone who signs up for the Windows Insider program and installs a preview build will receive the final release build automatically, with no hassles and no registration required. (Anyone running Windows 7 or 8.1 should see the "Get Windows 10" prompt.)
  • Yes, that copy of Windows 10 will remain activated, even if it was installed clean with no trace of any previous Windows version to be found.
  • Yes, you will be able to clean install Windows 10 on that PC from the official media if you want to start over fresh.
  • And if there's a technical conflict with the license agreement terms, you can relax. Microsoft is happy to have you on Team Windows.
There are many reasons why Microsoft is doing this, but that will be another story.

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