MS puts the squeeze on new Win2k PC preinstalls

Switch off for dual boot

Microsoft may have relented on switching off mainstream support for Windows 2000 next year, but that doesn't mean it isn't serious about pushing users away from the OS. According to Extremetech, PC manufacturers are to be barred from selling dual boot WinXP and Win2k systems from next year.

Many major corporate customers are still running on Win2k as a standard, and as they don't want to deploy WinXP piecemeal and without proper training and preparation, when they buy new machines they obviously want them running Win2k. From the PC manufacturer's point of view it therefore makes sense to offer a dual-purpose disk image that allows customers to decide which one they want to use, and have the install process vape the other.

So if their agreements with Microsoft no longer allow them to do both, at minimum it becomes more costly for them to continue offering both Win2k and WinXP preinstalls. And they're not about to drop WinXP ones.

But it's not entirely clear that they'll still be allowed to do Win2k preinstalls. Microsoft didn't confirm this to Extremetech, but said it "will offer downgrade rights in Windows XP." Well yes, we knew that already, so if Microsoft is saying it instead of stating explicitly that OEMs will still be able to preinstall Win2k, it does kind of give the impression that they won't be.

"Downgrade rights," since you ask, are a particularly despicable licensing procedure devised in order to shut up the customers who don't want to upgrade as fast as Microsoft would like them to, while at the same time getting Microsoft the money for the new products anyway. If you want to install a copy of Office 2000, say, you pay the licence fee for Office XP instead, and then you get to install Office 2000.

As far as operating systems are concerned, the 'downgrade' is obviously most cheaply and easily performed by the PC manufacturer. If you can't do it this way, then in addition to the effort you need to go to in order to install the OS yourself, you need to factor in price as well, because you're not likely to get anything like the volume terms the PC supplier gets.

Some OEMs have apparently been telling Extremetech that the dual boot facility is being ended because it fosters piracy. Conceivably, some fiendish villain with a boot CD and a copy of Ghost could possibly achieve something here, but we're not entirely clear what. Something to do with one Dell machine and a 1,000 naked white boxes, maybe...

But perhaps we see a little message about the trial settlement here. As we understand it, the deal with the DoJ explicitly stops Microsoft from forbidding dual boot. The key wording was as follows:

Microsoft can't penalise an OEM "because it is known to Microsoft that the OEM is or is contemplating... shipping a Personal Computer that (a) includes both a Windows Operating System Product and a non-Microsoft Operating System, or (b) will boot with more than one Operating System."

As we read that, (b) says OEMs can ship XP and Win2k dual boot systems. If they can license them. Which, now, they can't. Still, they could always dual boot XP with somebody else's OS, couldn't they? ®

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