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Microsoft recently announced its intention to make life easier for its Windows Server customers who’re building virtualization into their infrastructures, by changing its licensing to permit an unlimited number of virtualized Windows Server instances to run on a single copy of Windows Server 2003 Data Center Edition. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a similar change to its Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition product, allowing for four concurrent Windows Server instances.

These moves were smart because they’re truly pro-customer—the less time Windows admins spend messing with their OSes, the more time they can spend messing with their apps. This is also smart because Microsoft’s rivals in the server space, namely, Linux and Solaris, offer much more flexible licensing than does Windows. Microsoft’s Windows Server license liberalization choices should’ve been a no-brainer: Microsoft simply had to do it, lest Windows Server risk losing momentum or even begin—as our Linux-Watch colleague Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols has suggested—slipping backward.

At the same time that these smart licensing moves have been bubbling up out of Redmond, Microsoft has been making some not-so-smart licensing moves. Specifically, Microsoft has announced its plans to make life tougher for its corporate Windows client customers by extending the Windows Product Activation scheme it set forth back when Windows XP first shipped to include volume license customers, who get to join one-off Windows buyers in dealing with the pirate-busting technology. Extending WPA means adding a new item of potential hassle to IT plates that are already stacked too tall dealing with all the other hassles to which Windows is heir.

What’s worse, it appears that Microsoft has been expending significant development resources to make these expanded controls a reality. It seems to me that there’s been a rather important and rather delayed product in the works that could’ve benefited from the developer hours that Microsoft had to devote to building the self-hosted activation server and associated tools required to bring WPA to Microsoft’s biggest customers.

Read the full story on Microsoft Watch: One Step Forward and One Step Back

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