As Microsoft prepares to stake its claim in the tablet market with Windows 8, the company is tweaking its software licensing to make it more expensive for organizations that remotely access virtual desktops using non-Windows tablets.
With Windows 8, Microsoft is adding a new optional add-on to its Software Assurance (SA) volume licensing agreement -- called a Companion Device License (CDL) -- which gives customers the right to access corporate desktops through virtual desktop infrastructure on up to four personally owned devices.
SA-covered organizations whose employees use iPads and Android tablets for VDI will need to buy the CDL, though Microsoft has not yet said what it will cost. Interestingly, the CDL requirement disappears if an organization uses tablets running Windows RT, the version designed for ARM processors, which are covered under Microsoft's new Windows RT VDA license.
[Related: Microsoft Windows 8 News]
"That's basically a penalty for not buying a Windows RT tablet," said Paul DeGroot, principal analyst at Pica Communications, a Microsoft licensing consultancy in Camano Island, Wash.
According to Microsoft, when used as a companion of a Windows Software Assurance licensed PC, Windows RT tablets will automatically receive extended VDA rights.
"These rights will provide access to a full VDI image running in the datacenter which will make Windows RT a great complementary tablet option for business customers," Erwin Visser, senior director in the Windows Commercial Group, said in a Wednesday blog post.
Apple's iPad has emerged as a major catalyst for desktop virtualization, much to the chagrin of Microsoft, which had expected Windows 7 to drive the lion's share of this business. So it is certainly understandable that Microsoft would be looking for ways to slow this trend.
However, the changes to the Windows RT VDA license cover a much broader range of VDI scenarios than Microsoft's existing SA "Roaming Rights," which have been criticized for being overly restrictive. And in DeGroot's view, this is a positive development that could remove complexity from Microsoft's VDI licensing terms.
Though seemingly designed for VDI use on home PCs, SA Roaming Rights do not cover devices that a customer owns or controls, such as home PCs, DeGroot said. According to a Microsoft customer FAQ, Roaming Rights can only be used on a "device that is not controlled, directly or indirectly, by you or your affiliates (e.g., a third party's public kiosk)."
NEXT: How the Windows RT VDA License Changes The Game