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Computer Exchange (CeX) is to buy and sell secondhand copies of Windows XP. But all copies must be unused and sealed.

By insisting on this, the UK's leading retailer of secondhand games and IT goods hopes to avoid any copyright issues arising from the new product activation system used in Windows XP.

Here are CeX's prices (inc VAT):

  • Windows XP Home Edition £135
  • Windows XP Professional Edition £195
  • Windows XP Home Edition Upgrade £69
  • Windows XP Prof. Ed. Upgrade £135

You can expect to pay these prices if you're buying new (inc VAT):

  • Windows XP Home Edition £179.99
  • Windows XP Professional Edition £259.99
  • Windows XP Home Edition Upgrade £89.99
  • Windows XP Prof. Ed. Upgrade £169.99

If the copies are unused and sealed, who is selling them in to the second-hand market? Microsoft believes that none of its products arrive on the grey market

legitimately

- and it's early days for system builder OEMs to be realising they've ordered too much. And it can't possibly be the case that an OEM has ordered software, fully intending to sell it into the distribution channel to improve cashflow and make a little margin. Microsoft wouldn't like that.



CeX suggested to The Reg that the secondhand WinXP units could be unwanted presents. This is possible. You may have a friend who bought a new PC with XP installed on it, so you've seen how it performs, what hardware it doesn't support, and you want nothing to do with it. But you didn't tell your gran, and she bought you a copy anyway.

The Joy of CeX

More likely, sealed copies are promotional units collared by journalists, among others. But not so, according to an intriguing New Media Diary snippet in The Guardian. An IT journo who attended last week's WinXP launch in London, made away with the free software, scooted off to CeX's branch in Tottenham Court Road, London and tried to sell her promo copy.

"'It seems that Bill Gates got there first', comments our source. 'Microsoft had told the shop not to accept any review copies from journalists. What do they expect us to with things - use them?'"?

Hmmm. As the copies of WinXP doled out at the launch were 120-day evaluation-only, it could be that CeX was simply performing a bit of quality control. But the Microsoft clampdown angle is interesting.

Microsoft's anti-piracy squad says it is wrong for hacks to sell review software, but it also says that it has not put the frighteners on CeX. CeX declines to answer our questions on this subject.

Microsoft has not yet formulated an official response to CeX's decision to resell secondhand Windows XP, but the UK anti-piracy team "wonders where the hell (CeX) is getting its stock from".

In the meantime, CeX is treading on eggshells. It insists on buying in only completely unused goods, in contrast with other PC software titles.

This is CeX's usual line on how it buys PC software.

If you are selling PC Software, any licence agreements, registration forms, manuals, CD Keys, the original box (if the Full Retail Package version), etc., must be supplied. Also, all software must be unregistered and be free of any manufacturers brands, i.e. Compaq, Dell, IBM, etc. If selling OEM software, cex.co.uk will only accept software that is vacuum shrink wrapped.

CeX has 10 branches and also buys and sells from its website.

It's going to be tough to sell your copy of WinXP, even if you've acquired it legitimately, installed it and then decide you don't want it. Ebay sellers seem to be thinking along similar lines. A quick look at eBay's UK site reveals one copy of WinXP - it's a Pro version, and it is sealed and untouched. ®

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