Microsoft Windows 8 Licensing

Microsoft has just released its new operating system, Windows 8, on October 26th, 2012. This new release comes with a radical new user interface. It is optimized for touchscreens, mice and keyboards, applications available for purchase from a Windows Store and offers plenty of exciting new features. Compared to previous editions, Windows 8 supports two types of devices: the well-known PC but also ARM device based tablets such as the new Microsoft Surface. Microsoft has not changed the core of the Windows licensing model. The device metric is still in use but additional rules have been added.

Microsoft Windows 8 is available in 4 editions: Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows 8 Pro and Windows Enterprise. Windows 8 is the consumer version and available through the retail and OEM channels. Windows RT (RT stands for RunTime) is dedicated to ARM-based devices such as tablets and is not directly sold to customers, but rather, is always distributed through OEM. The Windows 8 Pro edition is for small to medium sized businesses. It is comparable to Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate and can be purchased from any channel: retail, OEM or volume licensing. The Enterprise edition is for large organizations purchasing licenses in bulk. It is only available as a benefit of Software Assurance and cannot be purchased outside of this scenario.

To install and use the Windows 8 Enterprise edition, an organization must own a Windows 8 Pro license and assign Software Assurance (SA) to it. Once the Enterprise edition has been deployed, the right to use it is perpetual on the device. As soon as SA has expired, the Windows 8 Enterprise edition software cannot be moved to another device. If the Enterprise Edition was not installed prior to the expiration of SA, then it cannot be deployed on the device.

Licenses for Microsoft Windows 8 can be acquired in multiple ways: through retail (Full Package Product or FPP), OEM or Volume Licensing, but it is also available from Windows Intune and Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) subscriptions. In addition, Windows 8 is available via MSDN for developers, and TechNet for IT Professionals through a subscription to those programs. Intune is a monthly subscription based license for small to medium size organizations that provides a cloud service for PC security and management. As part of the subscription, Windows 8 Enterprise edition licenses are included and carry product use rights that are similar to what are provide under SA. Among these rights, the upgrade rights provide access to the latest version of the Windows software product.

Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) subscription licenses provide access to virtual Operating System Environments (OSE) from devices that do not qualify for SA, such as thin clients. It also enables enterprise users who are not the primary user of a device covered by Software Assurance to access virtual OSEs. For instance, a user working from home who has not be allocated a corporate device covered by SA, needs a VDA license to access virtual machines in the organization’s datacenter using his/her home computer (using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology). VDA does not provide local installation rights.

Organizations using Windows 7 Enterprise can migrate to Windows 8 Enterprise. If they are using Windows 7 Professional, they can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. In this latter case, the addition of Software Assurance will provide access to Windows 8 Enterprise.

The Enterprise edition provides exclusive features not available with the Pro edition. DirectAccess is a new Windows 8 feature enabling remote users to access resources inside a corporate network without having to establish a distinct Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection. It requires a computer equipped with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip, a smart card reader and a physical smart card. AppLocker and BranchCache, introduced with Windows 7, allow an organization to specify which users or groups can run specific applications and enable content from file and or web servers on a WAN to be cached on computers at a local branch office. Enhancements added to the Microsoft RemoteFX technology, improving user experience in VDI scenarios, are only available with the Windows 8 Enterprise edition. Finally, the Enterprise edition enables the direct deployment of touch-optimized Windows 8 apps on devices, bypassing the use of the Windows Store.

The Windows 8 licensing options are straight forward and promote the procurement of Software Assurance within organizations: specific features and product use rights are only available with the Enterprise edition. If managing Windows 8 licenses seems easy on the surface, the product use rights attached to a license with SA, Intune or VDA, are complex and make the license compliance position difficult to calculate. I’ll have more on Windows 8 product use rights in my next blog.


To learn more about applying product use rights to optimize software licensing, please view our on-demand webinar: Strategies for Optimized License Management (part of our 4-part webinar series).


Categories: General, Microsoft software licensing

3 comments on “Microsoft Windows 8 Licensing

  1. Paul DeGroot on   # Reply

    The Enterprise deployment right is perpetual, as it was with Windows 7. From the Oct. PUR, SA benefits, Windows Enterprise under Software Assurance:
    “If you accrue a perpetual right under Software Assurance coverage to use the latest version of the Windows desktop operating system, then you will have a perpetual right to use in its place the corresponding version of Windows Enterprise, but only as permitted in the Desktop Operating System section of the Product Use Rights without the additional rights and limitations here.”
    The additional rights in the SA section are primarily virtualization rights.
    The perpetual right is not available for VDA devices, Windows Intune user subscriptions, etc.

  2. didem on   # Reply


    I read that we can buy windows 8 oem only till 01 feb 2013? after that day can we buy it as FPP? is this true?

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