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You can buy Win2k server, but pretend it's 2003?

Or something...

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It's how you count them. History tells us that the success of quite a few next generation Microsoft products is aided by it becoming progressively more difficult and expensive for customers to carry on buying the previous product. For some lucky licensees Microsoft institutionalised this procedure last year by getting them to pay for the new products and then letting them install the old products anyway, if that's what they want to do, but the Big Red Switch for the OEM channel still plays its part, and do we see the first signs of it being thrown for Windows 2000 Server?

As time passes, Microsoft's licensing agreements with the PC companies tend to block them from preinstalling the products some of their customers want, forcing them to sell the products Microsoft wants these customers to want instead. Dell and the NT 4.0 drivers is a case in point, so we're not exactly surprised that twitches on the Win2k Server availability front seem to be emanating from, yes, Dell.

A Register reader with a need for a couple of Win2k servers a month tells us it's currently difficult to predict whether or not the servers he's buying from Dell are allowed to be sold with a Win2k OEM licence.

"Subsequently, I've ended up buying some servers with Win2k3 licenses, but Win2k media. I'm not rolling out Win2k3, and have no immediate plans to do so, but I believe Dell has sold me at least two or three Win2k3 licenses since the product went Gold."

Undoubtedly the hardware OEMs will at some point find themselves unable to ship Win2k (as opposed to just being encouraged to discourage people from buying it), but this is a little different in that we're shipping the media, but apparently tallying it up as Win2k3 (which is a handy abbreviation we propose to steal). This matches the new 'rental' licensing model and no doubt makes the bean counters and marketing happy, but doesn't directly force Win2k3 into the channel by cutting off customers' Win2k supply. Yet.

So will this become the norm, with all of the PCs pretending to ship the new stuff, us all buying the old stuff anyway and everybody being happy, or is it just a case of some people at Dell being unsure which way is currently up? We'll know soon enough, no doubt... ®

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