Direct PC manufacturers will no longer be able to supply customers with their own CD version of the Windows operating system because of Microsoft 's piracy concerns.
In an official document seen by PC Advisor, Microsoft has told its direct PC partners, manufacturers who sell over the phone and the Internet, that "our CD media was being unbundled and resold." Therefore, the company would be “discontinuing our manufacture of Microsoft-branded media for Windows products in the OEM direct channel.”
The move will come into effect in January after outraged PC manufacturers complained to Microsoft about the company’s original discontinuation date of Nov. 1, 1999.
Until now anyone buying a PC from companies such as Dell or Gateway could copy their Windows operating system onto as many PCs as they liked. Though illegal, the bundled software has provided many PC users with a free upgrade to Windows 98 from earlier versions of Windows.
The inclusion of bundled Windows software on CD has also provided a crucial last ditch lifeline for users experiencing severe technical difficulties with their systems. Should all else fail, support technicians could talk users through a complete reinstallation procedure.
The new licensing agreement means that PC manufacturers will now only be able to supply customers with their own recovery CD media provided it is BIOS-locked to run on the customer's system. This means the CD containing Windows recovery files will only recognise the PC that it is sold with. Manufacturers have also been given the option of restricting recovery software to a partition on the hard drive.
The discontinuation will apply to both Windows 98, NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 when it arrives in February of next year. One of Microsoft’s PC partners, which wished to remain nameless, told PC Advisor it would be novice users of Windows 98 who were most likely to be disadvantaged by the move as NT customers usually have sufficient knowledge to sort out recovery problems without the assistance of a CD.
Microsoft's decision reflects its increasing concerns about piracy draining the company of valuable revenue. According to the Microsoft-funded Business Software Alliance, piracy rates in the UK were 29% in 1998, with one in three businesses using illegally copied software.