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Microsoft Windows prevails, despite licensing woes

By Jean-Claude Elias - Nov 21,2019 - Last updated at Nov 21,2019

It is an often-heard joke amongst IT professional, that it takes a PhD in Science just to know what the right version of Microsoft Windows to buy for your computer is!

Thirty-four years ago, almost to the day, back in November 20, 1985, Microsoft launched its first Windows operating system for personal computers. The rest is history.

There is no argument about the prevalence of Windows over all other similar systems for desktop and laptop machines. According to recent figures released by hostingtribunal.com it now holds an impressive 80 per cent share of the market (April 2019). The remaining 20 per cent are held by Apple OS, Linux and Android.

It is also commonly acknowledged by most that Windows 10, the latest version that was released in July 2015, has ironed out a great part of the imperfections found in previous versions. Whereas perfection is still an elusive dream, users’ satisfaction overall is high and Windows 10 can certainly be seen as an undisputed winner, a powerful and stable system, and a significant improvement over all previous releases.

It is interesting to note on the way that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the main software architect of Windows, and formerly the company’s chairman for many years, has just overtaken Amazon’s chief Jeff Bezos this week to reclaim, once more time, the title of the richest person in the world (fortune.com). He remains one the major stockholders of the company and its prime adviser.

Still, users’ life with Microsoft is not entirely free of woes. Perhaps their main complain today is not about using Windows per se, or about any technical or operational aspect of it, as much as it is about licensing Windows, the way they would pay to use it.

So back to buying Windows, or to be more precise, to buying the right to use it, for indeed in the world of software you never actually buy the product, you just pay for the right, the license to use it.

The various licensing options stem from a legitimate reason to offer the best price and set features to each and every one, taking consideration that different users have different needs and different budgets.

It starts with the usual Home, Business, Student and Pro versions (to keep things somewhat simple). Students benefit from significantly reduced pricing — definitely a good thing – and home users also pay less than Pro users for they generally need less complicated networking and advanced features. This much is understood. Pros need every single feature and are willing to pay for that.

Things becomes complicated when you get to the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), the OLP (Open Licensing Programme) and VLP (Volume Licensing Programme) licensing formulas, to name only these three main types.

If yours is an OEM licence (the least expensive of them all) and the computer on which it is installed is to discard or to retire, for whatever reason, your Windows licence is lost with it, you have to buy it again with the new machine you would get.

If it is an OLP, then the license can be “transferred” to another computer, a new one for example. If it is a VLP, then it is most likely a type of license provided to corporations or businesses who usually buy a large number of licences and therefore benefit from good discount.

Most of the time home and private users settle for the simpler and cheaper OEM version; the Home edition of Windows 10 is about JD60. You just have to be aware of what you are paying for. You can also ask your vendor to advise you about the best licence to get — provided they do understand the different possible ways! Not every salesperson holds a PhD in Microsoft Windows licensing science.

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