Making sense of Microsoft’s downgrade rights

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Trying to work out Microsoft’s licensing policies is enough to make a grown man (or woman) cry. You always seem to be in a maze of twisty passages, all alike, and it’s hard to know whether what you are doing is actually legally correct.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Microsoft will not understand the pain and cost it imposes on its customers until it actually has to run software licensing internally. I accept that the development groups can be let off, because they are constantly installing and uninstalling beta versions of their software. Or running up the Serbo Croation version to check a typo. But the marketing arms of Microsoft have absolutely no excuses – they should run licensing and pay internally in exactly the same way that we do. If that happened, then I predict there would be massive simplication within months.

In the meantime, we can but dream. However, there have been moves to make things easier, even if the new information isn’t obvious and you don’t notice it for some time.

This page contains a longwinded table about the various downgrade rights you have for Windows Server. From this table you can see that, for example, a current “Windows Server 2008 Enterprise without Hyper-V” can be used as a downgrade licence all the way back to “Windows 2000 Advanced Server”. Actually, come to think of it, I thought the “without Hyper-V” versions of Server 2008 never actually shipped – but maybe thats just another example of the maze of twisting passages that Microsoft’s product set consists of.

Actually, a senior Microsoft executive recently told me that Microsoft has some 138 individual products. Some might argue this is way too many.

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