Microsoft Defogs Windows Licensing For PC Refurbishers

The Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) is the vendor's attempt to more clearly spell out Windows licensing terms for its refurbisher partners, who operate in a market that refurbishes and resells an estimated 28 million PCs each year, representing more than 10 percent of the worldwide PC market.

Partners can't re-install Windows on the machines they refurbish unless they have the computer's certificate of authenticity (COA) or recovery media, which can be difficult to track down. As a result, refurbishers often end up shipping many PCs 'naked', or without an operating system installed, said Hani Shakeel, senior product manager in the Genuine Windows product marketing group

The MAR program addresses this by giving refurbishers two new Windows licensing SKUs: Windows XP Home for Refurbished PCs and Windows XP Professional for Refurbished PCs, as well as a new channel classification, Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher.

Microsoft has also created an automated deployment tool for OEMs and refurbishers that have shipped at least 5000 refurbished PCs per month over the past 12 month period, Shakeel said.

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There has been a considerable amount of ambiguity around licensing for refurbished PCs, and partners have been begging Microsoft for clarity on this issue, says Jake Player, president of TechTurn, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider and Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher.

"We haven't been in position to legitimately resell Microsoft-loaded licenses, so this clarifies what we can do when we reload. This will help build confidence in the secondary market by having Microsoft verify that it's a genuine OS and is supported," said Player.

Dave Sobel, president of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va., solution provider, said the MAR program makes sense from both from an environmental and licensing revenue standpoint.

"We hear way too much about all the illicit ways of getting licenses, so it's great that Microsoft is giving refurbishers a way to sell legitimate licenses," Sobel said. "But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that Microsoft doesn't also want to sell more Windows licenses with this program."

Microsoft is also adding an environmentally conscious twist to the MAR program by requiring refurbisher partners to have a strong environmental practice to be eligible, according to Shakeel.

"Several top tier refurbishers have invested in building their businesses in an environmentally conscious way, which includes properly disposing of machines that are not being refurbished. The end result is that businesses recycle PCs responsibly," Shakeel said.