Virtualizing Windows may violate your license requirements

Parallels, a nifty piece of software that puts simple OS virtualization into the hands of the average desktop user, released a product dedicated to helping people upgrade from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7. It takes the OS currently on your hard drive, along with files, settings, and programs, sticks it in a virtual machine, and installs Windows 7. It then takes all the settings, files, and programs from the old OS and applies everything to Windows 7. It's a hassle-free way to upgrade, and many users that can't afford to spend the required hours migrating settings and installing software will likely be pleased with Parallels' solution.

One customer that isn't happy, however, is Microsoft. In a statement to Cnet, Microsoft says that it can't endorse Parallels because their method violates Microsoft Windows licensing requirements. Apparently, the right to virtualize a Windows OS and run it alongside another Windows OS is a privilege only available to certain license plans. Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft's general manager, explains.

"Microsoft does not endorse moving the user's desktop from a physically loaded OS into a VM as a consumer solution, because the vast majority (more than 90 percent) of consumers do not license Windows under a license that would allow them to transfer Windows into a virtual machine, move Windows to a different machine, or run a secondary virtual machine that is not running XP Mode on the same machine. Without these license rights, most consumers will not be properly licensing Windows when using the virtualization features of Parallels' product."

In order to legally use the software, Microsoft requires you to have an enterprise license with a Software Assurance contract. Needless to say, the target demographic for the Parallels product isn't purchasing an enterprise license. Parallels hasn't released a solution for this yet, and is just saying that "We require customers to verify they have the proper license," according to a representative. Microsoft is still looking into the problem.

Microsoft isn't trying to shut down the operation by any means. In fact, the tool is a great opportunity for Microsoft to get Windows 7 into the hands of users who would otherwise find the task of upgrading too daunting. We're not sure what the solution will be, but don't expect Microsoft to just rule out the Parallels option altogether.

Image courtesy of Cnet

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