Windows 8 Licensing Update

Microsoft have now released Windows 8 to Volume Licensing and general release to the public will be on 26th October 2012.

  • This article will examine how you address normal PCs but also mobile slate devices in your organisation and bring Microsoft productivity tools and experience to your users on any device depending on your business goals.
  • This will look at what you need from the Microsoft end – whether you are looking at iPads or Windows RT Devices
  • This will look at the Microsoft licensing requirements to get this done.
  • This article will give you a brief overview of the different Virtualization scenarios or Device Types so you can work out your product and licensing requirements.
  • An overview of Downgrade Rights from Windows 8 If your organisation is not ready for the move from Windows 7


Windows 8 Pro will be the standard licensing mechanism for organisations who wish to adopt the latest release of Windows OS; while Extended Functionality, Extended Use Rights and associated Rights To Purchase are all aligned within the greater canon of Software Assurance benefits for Windows.

Software Assurance (SA) has been greatly expanded since its original introduction, and greater benefits have been attributed to a maintenance model, rather than the perpetual licence alone. This encourages customers to commit to procurement of maintenance (SA) to leverage the benefits that are not permitted with the licence alone.

In addition to the well known benefit of New Version Rights, Microsoft incentivise commitment to maintenance via Extended Functionality such as access to Windows 8 Enterprise Edition and impose certain limitations on Rights to Purchase of their wider technology stack – such as Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

Microsoft have incorporated Extended Use Rights within Software Assurance for Windows and this has been updated since Windows 7. Microsoft have responded to the popularity of tablet devices and are actively responding to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) scenarios and responded to the emergent use of USBs for Portable Apps and Portable Windows by introducing Windows To Go within the Extended Functionality of Software Assurance (SA). This includes specific access rights to Windows in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI); and there are updated specific licensing models that affect devices running Windows RT (Surface) or iOS, and should be exhaustively reviewed to understand the licensing implications for your organisation.

Windows 8 Pro Upgrades

Microsoft offer Windows 8 Pro though Volume Licensing as an Upgrade Licence. This approach recognises the existing base licence assigned to the device, whether OEM or Retail, or an existing Upgrade Licence(s) with underlying OEM or Retail licence.


The qualified base license will depend on both the Agreement type, and whether it is a new or existing Agreement. This does also include Mac OS (see diagram below) and is also available for reference in the Product List.


[Ref: Windows 8 Licensing Guide, September 2012]

When an organisation is reviewing the implications of providing end users with the option to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) it is recommended to confirm the existing licensed OS and whether it is on the “Qualified OS” list within the Product List

Please note: Organisations who have procured Windows 8 Pro software licenses through the OEM channel, please refer to the associated use rights are outlined in the Software License Terms that accompany the software. The license terms state use rights to run Windows locally on the licensed device in a Physical operating system environment (POSE). However, they do not provide use rights for accessing Windows running remotely in a virtual OSE (VOSE) from the licensed device and are limited when compared to the wider extended use rights incorporated in the Volume Agreement procurement model when combined with Software Assurance (SA).

Extended Functionality

Microsoft continue to promote adoption of premium SKUs. The Extended Functionality within Windows 8 Enterprise Edition is only available when Windows 8 Pro is procured with Software Assurance.

Extended Functionality will include access to a suite of technologies including Windows To Go, DirectAccess, BranchCache, AppLocker, VDI Enhancements, and corporate Windows 8 Apps deployment via Sideloading


A more detailed overview of the technologies are available on the Windows 7 website (last accessed 24/09/2012):

  • DirectAccess: Give mobile users seamless access to corporate networks without a need to VPN.
  • BranchCache: Decrease the time branch office users spend waiting to download files across the network.
  • Federated Search: Find information in remote repositories, including SharePoint sites, with a simple user interface.
  • AppLocker: Specify what software is allowed to run on a user’s PCs through centrally managed but flexible Group Policies.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) optimizations: Improved user experience for VDI with multi-monitor and microphone support, which have the ability to reuse virtual hard drive (VHD) images to boot a physical PC.
  • Multilingual user interface: Create a single OS image for deployment to users worldwide.

Microsoft have also responded to the emergent use of USBs for Portable Apps and Portable Windows and have introduced Windows To Go within the Extended Functionality of Windows 8 Enterprise Edition

Access to Windows 8 Enterprise Edition

The Windows 8 Enterprise Edition extended functionality is only available to devices with active Software Assurance (SA) for Windows.

  • The customer must ‘assign’ the Windows 8 Pro and Software Assurance (SA) within the Volume Agreement term
  • If Windows 8 Enterprise was not deployed prior to expiration, an organisation is now unable to deploy the upgrades after their coverage has expired.
  • If the assigned device was replaced after expiration, then Windows Enterprise cannot be re-assigned to the replacement device.

It is the personal view of the author, that deployment of Windows Enterprise is a right and not an obligation and therefore it should be the decision of the customer whether Enterprise is deployed on that device or not, and if they choose later that they want to deploy it after the Software Assurance term has expired, then they should be able to.

However, Microsoft confirm in the Product List that Software Assurance must remain ‘active’ to remain eligible for the benefit:

“[…] Customers with active Software Assurance coverage for the Windows desktop operating system are eligible for this benefit. Software Assurance coverage for the Windows desktop operating system on a licensed device gives customers the option to use Windows 8 Enterprise in place of Windows 8 Pro on that device.

Eligible Software Assurance customers have the rights to use Windows 8 Enterprise as described in the Product Use Rights. Customers may not move Windows 8 Enterprise from the licensed device to another device, except in conjunction with the permitted reassignment of their Software Assurance coverage.”

[Ref: Product List, September 2012, Page 59 of 169]

While an extended right to deploy Windows 8 Enterprise Edition after expiration (on a device correctly assigned within the agreement term) could arguably be supported by the following extract from the Product List below; One should be aware that access to enterprise functionality is not supported under “New Version Rights” as technically it is a different ‘Edition’ and not a new ‘Version’ of Windows.

New Version Rights

With Software Assurance, customers are eligible to upgrade to new versions of licensed software made available during their term of Software Assurance coverage. New Version Rights means, for any underlying licensed product for which Software Assurance coverage is ordered, the right to upgrade to, and run in place of the underlying licensed product, the latest version of that product that we make available during the covered period. For example, if a new version of Microsoft Office is made available during the term of your coverage, your licenses will automatically be upgraded to the new version. Customers that acquire perpetual licenses through Software Assurance can deploy the upgrades after their coverage has expired.

[Ref: Product List, September 2012, Page 55 of 169]

“When you license a device with Software Assurance, the SA benefits for that device are available for the term of the Software Assurance coverage only. Note, when acquired under a non-subscription license, Windows 8 Enterprise use rights are perpetual for the licensed device even after Software Assurance coverage ends as long as Windows 8 Enterprise was installed on the device at the time Software Assurance coverage ends. Perpetual use rights for Enterprise Edition are tied to the licensed device and end once the device is retired.”

[Ref: Windows 8 Licensing Guide, September 2012, Page 7 of 16]

Under this logic, a  customer licensed with Windows 7 Professional with active Software Assurance (SA) expiring 31st October 2012

  1. Can assign and deploy Windows 7 Enterprise Edition until the end of their Software Assurance (SA) coverage.
  2. Can deploy Windows 8 Pro in December (after expiration) using the benefit of “New Version Rights”.
  3. Cannot deploy Windows 8 Enterprise after expiration of Software Assurance (SA) coverage (since they no longer have rights to Enterprise Edition). Interesting Stuff.

[Ref: Thank you to the support and expertise of the folks at LicensEase]

Please be aware that this will supersede my previous information received from Microsoft US on this topic.

Enterprise Sideloading

Customers who have procured Windows 8 Pro with Software Assurance (SA) in an Enterprise Agreement, Select or Select Plus Agreement, or CASA Agreement, will be equipped to enable deployments of Windows 8 Apps through sideloading.

Sideloading via Windows 8 Enterprise is an enabled as a feature of Domain Joined PCs and customers can manage the deployment of corporate Windows 8 Apps to these devices by making an update to a group policy setting.

For Sideloading on Windows 8 Pro, Windows RT, or Windows 8 Enterprise devices that are non-domain joined; in addition to making the group policy update , customers will need a Volume Agreement (VL) Product Key that will be activated to enable the device for sideloading.

As stated in the Product List,

“Windows Enterprise Sideloading is the process of installing new Windows 8 Apps being used for the benefit of the customer directly to a device without going through the Windows Store. Domain joined devices running Windows 8 Enterprise edition are feature-enabled for Windows Enterprise Sideloading. Windows Enterprise Sideloading can also be enabled on devices running Windows 8 Enterprise that are not domain joined, and devices running Windows 8 Pro, or Windows RT through the use of a product key. In all cases, Windows Enterprise Sideloading may only be used to deploy Apps that are used for the benefit of the Volume Licensing customer. Windows Enterprise Sideloading functionality is supplemental to the Windows Desktop Operating System , and as such, the license terms applicable to the Windows Desktop Operating System, as supplemented here, apply to customers’ use of it.”

[Ref: Product List, September 2012, Page 98 of 169]

Windows via an Enterprise Agreement, Select or Select Plus Agreement, or CASA Agreement, will be granted enterprise sideloading rights and provided with the necessary product keys in the Volume License Service Center (VLSC).

Customers who are not committed to the Software Assurance (SA) model for Windows via the above mentioned agreements who want to deploy Apps on Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro devices can purchase a pack of 100 sideloading licenses with a single product key.

Further, the access to Sideloading is intrinsically linked to active Software Assurance as re-enforced by the wording in the Product List:

Windows Enterprise Sideloading may only be enabled on any permitted device prior to the expiration of the corresponding Software Assurance coverage or Subscription License

[Ref: Product List, September 2012, Page 98 of 169]

Windows 8 Downgrade Rights

An important knowledge resource upon release of a new product is understanding the Downgrade Rights (You can read previously provided the downgrade options for Windows 7). While to-date circa 580 Million licenses have been sold of Windows 7, many organisations have only recently deployed Windows 7 enterprise-wide or are still completing corporate refreshes to standardise on Windows 7 from XP.

It should be noted that End of Support for XP SP3 is now announced as April 8th, 2014 (12 Years and 6 Months since the original release date of October 2001)

  • Please be aware that Downgrade rights are included in licenses obtained through OEM or Volume Licensing and do not apply to retail copies of Windows.
  • OEM downgrade rights apply to Windows 8 Pro and allow downgrading for up to two prior versions (N-2) (to Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business).
  • Software Assurance (SA) through Volume Licensing provides the greatest downgrade rights, allowing for downgrades to additional prior versions and editions, including notably, Windows 7 Enterprise


[Ref: Windows 8 Licensing Guide, September 2012]

Right to Purchase MDOP

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) includes App-V and Med-V and is provided as an Optional Purchase with Windows 8 Pro with Software Assurance (SA).

– This is an impressive toolkit to support virtualization and builds the business case for commitment to procure Windows 8 via a Volume Agreement with Software Assurance (SA).

Application Virtualization

Application Virtualization isolation occurs one level up in the stack from the OS and hardware. App virtualization isolates an application and all of that application’s files and resources from the operating system (OS), and any other application on the system.

Application virtualization isolates the application from the OS. While to the user, this doesn’t really differ from the traditional concept of directly installing applications directly on the OS, to IT organizations the difference can be massive.

App Virtualization (Microsoft App-V) allows multiple versions of the same application can run on one computer system at the same time. Also, apps can be automatically streamed to a desktop, on demand and as needed, without having to be installed by a local IT tech. App-V can provide centralized application management and security and easy, fast patching and upgrades. This is all available as part of Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

This technology can address a number of headaches. First, because the application is isolated from the OS, there’s no need for the application to be installed in any traditional sense of the word. (This means multiple versions of the same application can run on a single desktop) This also means that applications can be streamed out to a desktop when the user needs them, which doesn’t require a helpdesk call or a IT visit to the desk.

For the average desktop admin, this drastically reduces the time and cost implications of desktop management because it brings patch and upgrade management to one central location and will accelerate the deployment of any new applications. It also ensures the entire desktop environment is configured to be secure and consistent.

This enables the mobile end user, as the work critical apps they need to do their jobs actually follow them around the organization (Roaming Users). Interestingly, Microsoft’s application virtualization solution, App-V, can also stream only the parts of the application needed by the user and have instant click start-ups

Once the user logs off, the application can be removed, and is no longer there risking access by a non-authorised or unlicensed user.

When combined with User State Virtualization (USV), App-V allows you to have an environment that allows your users to be productive, with access to their own apps and data, anywhere they sign-on in your network.

Legacy Applications

If you are in the process of looking at Windows 7 you will likely be examining Application compatibility: Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) allows you to run your legacy applications, including Internet Explorer 6 based applications, inside a Windows XP compatibility workspace. This IT-managed Windows XP virtual environment remains hidden from your users. Applications running inside appear on the Windows 7 Start menu and appear to users indistinguishable from native applications.

Quick note – The Windows Steam Blog recommend checking out the new 2.0 release in the first quarter of 2011. Check out and evaluate the download at Microsoft Connect.

  • Buy Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP)
  • Create your Windows XP base image in Windows Virtual PC and install your legacy applications
  • Create a MED-V workspace package from your Windows XP base image
  • Deploy your MED-V workspace

Technical resources

Extended Use Rights

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is an alternative to the traditional desktop deployment model for Windows OS. This allows each user to get access to a personal desktop in the datacentre from any connected device. The access device could include a normal desktop environment with Windows or a Thin Client (TC) or iPad.

To obtain Virtual Desktop Access rights, the following approach must be adhered to:

  • A device is licensed with qualifying OS license(s) with ‘active’ coverage of Software Assurance (SA) for Windows.
  • If a device does not have qualifying OS license(s) (for example, a thin client or “nonx86” device) and, therefore, cannot be licensed with an Upgrade Licence should be licensed with a separate active Windows VDA Subscription

Roaming Use Rights

Roaming Use Rights allow the “primary user of any licensed device” to access Windows 8 running in the datacenter (VDI) or Windows To Go from non-corporate devices such as personally-owned or hotel or business centre PCs while outside the firewall (new Microsoft terminology: off company premises).


This licensing model enables employers to support remote working for employees whose primary work PC is licensed with SA to enable access to the virtual desktop when working outside of the office (whether at home or 3rd part premises).

Microsoft included Windows To Go as a benefit for a licensed device with SA, but also extended this to enable remote access to the corporate desktop  when working from a personal device at home or off-site; the “primary user” of a Windows 8 device licensed device with active Software Assurance (SA) can now access their corporate desktop through either VDI in the datacenter or Windows To Go via USB.

Ownership Device Type
3rd Party Owned: Non-x86
Windows RT
Personally Owned: Non-x86
Windows RT

Windows Companion Subscription Licence (CSL)

  • When a Primary device is covered with either Windows 8 Pro with SA or VDA Subscription is also licensed with the separate Windows Companion Subscription License (CSL), Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) access rights are extended for “primary user of the licensed device” for up to 4 companion devices.
    • Devices eligible for CSL include any type of personally owned device as well as corporate owned non-x86/x64 devices. This supports BYOD and Microsoft have incorporated this into the product licensing model.


The Windows Companion Subscription License (CSL) enables BYOCD (Bring Your Own Companion Device) scenarios and provides businesses with more flexibility to run Windows OS across various form factors.

Under Windows 7, Users that wanted access the corporate desktop remotely from their personal iPad could leverage Windows Roaming Rights under their organisations Volume Agreement with active Windows SA. However, should a user bring that device into the office and access Windows (VDI) from within the corporate firewall, the product licensing model would require an additional VDA Subscription. This was hard to track and not easy to explain.

Under Windows 8, Users that have a “Primary Device” licensed under a Volume Agreement with Windows SA can access Windows on or off premise on up to 4 devices via a Companion Subscription Licence (CSL)

The Windows CSL is an optional add-on for the primary user of an SA licensed device, and grants the rights to access a corporate desktop through VDI or Windows To Go on up to four companion devices.

Ownership Device Type
Corporate Owned: Non-x86
Personally Owned: x86
Windows RT

CSL could be more cost effective for users with multiple devices and would cost less than licensing a single device under Windows VDA.

It could also be viewed  as an approach to monetise the lost revenue from personal iPads and ensure 3rd Party devices are counted, tracked and recognised in Microsoft corporate volume purchasing contracts.

Windows Surface (RT) Companion VDA Rights

Microsoft have incentivised the take-up of Windows RT devices by allowing the “Primary User of the licensed device” to access their windows desktop through a VDI from a corporate owned Windows RT device.

Technology has influenced how people stay connected not just from their work PC but also from secondary, or what Microsoft have termed “companion devices” such as tablets. Microsoft have bolstered SA for Windows to enable these companion devices with more flexibility for how employees can access their corporate desktop (VDI) from these devices.

With Windows 8, the primary user of a device licensed with SA for Windows may access a corporate VDI from a company owned companion Windows RT device without having to acquire a separate Windows VDA subscription, encouraging corporate customers to move to Microsoft slate devices.


  • This encourages corporate owned slate devices such as iPad will need a CSL license If the user brings the device into the office to access Windows in a VDI Environment
  • If the organisation supports BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) it will encourage take-up of a corporate owned Windows RT device
    • Windows RT Companion VDA Rights strongly supports the procurement of Windows 8 Pro with Software Assurance (SA) and the renewal of active Volume Agreements with Software Assurance coverage for Windows.

Session Virtualization

This was originally Terminal Services and is used by several million users. Microsoft combined with Citrix have a pre-dominant share of the market. Microsoft have now named this Remote Desktop Services(RDS). This comes as part of Windows Server 2012

Session virtualization isolates the processing of the operating system and applications from the graphics and the Input and Output devices (keyboard and mouse). Once isolated, session virtualization sends the graphics from a central server and application out to an accessing device where the end user sees the display in real time. It is just as if the user were watching a live feed. However, session virtualization also captures the keyboard and mouse events of the remote user and replays them on the central datacenter.

Server Virtualization Graphic 3

This allows a user to instantly interact with the remote system. This design makes the user feel like the OS and application are actually running on the device in front of them, even though the application is sourced from a central datacenter.

This has real benefits in security with better security having all data stored and managed centrally. In this scenario, there is one shared copy of the software on the server, and this also has cost savings for patching and updates. Also, with data security and privacy concerns, having a central database provides a layer of security, by ensuring copies of the main database never leave the datacenter.

In Session Virtualization (Remote Desktop Services) users access a Windows Server OS hosting their application – In VDI, a Windows desktop hosts the application.

  • In Session Virtualization, only one copy of the OS is run on the hardware, and multiple users share that OS to run the application.
  • In VDI, each user is assigned their own complete OS, which is then used to host whatever apps the user needs

The VM is then copied to a server farm in a data centre, with each server in the farm running dozens of desktop VMs. Of course, a desktop OS is intended to be used with end users, so these virtual desktops are then accessed remotely by the end users using the same remote access technology we just talked about on the session virtualization (Remote Desktop Services)

This means that on average, VDI is more flexible and customizable than session virtualization. It is also less effective and could be more expensive to implement. In fact, due to the above mentioned product licensing requirements, VDI can be a lot more expensive than session virtualization for most customers.

As recommended by the Windows Steam Blog here is the approach to get started:

  1. Install the Remote Desktop session Host (RDSH) role service and configure RD Licensing role service and configure license settings.
  2. Install programs on the RD Session Host server and configure the client experience
  3. Configure users that will remotely connect to the RD Session Host server
  4. Expand deployment by configuring RDSH server farms and consider adding partner solutions such as Citrix XenApp
Technical Resources
  1. Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide.
  2. Remote Desktop Services Deployment Guide

[Ref: TechNet]

In terms of licensing implications, because devices access a Windows Server operating system, they do not need any additional licensing for the Windows desktop operating system. However, the devices/users need to be licensed for the session technology (such as Windows Server CALs and Remote Desktop Services [RDS] CALs).

Acquiring Software Assurance for Windows

There are several ways to cover your Windows 8 Pro licenses with Software Assurance for Windows:

  • When purchasing a Windows 8 Pro Upgrade license through Volume Licensing, you may also acquire Software Assurance for that license.
  • Software Assurance is automatically included in certain Volume Licensing programs such as Enterprise Agreement (EA), Enterprise Subscription Agreement (EAS), Open Value (OV), Open Value Subscription (OVS), and Enrolment for Education Solutions (EES)
  • For new PCs with Windows 8 Pro preinstalled by the OEM, you can purchase Software Assurance for Windows through the Open License, or Select Plus programs within 90 days of the PC purchase.


[Ref: Windows 8 Licensing Guide, September 2012]


Microsoft have enabled full productivity from a range of devices and provided options in the way your users access their data and their desktop and their applications. How you approach this in your organisation will have to be considered and hopefully the range of links and content within this article will assist you.

Your licensing requirements will be dependent on what you want your users to access on your network and the functionality and experience you want them to have, Microsoft have updated and incorporated a number of access and device scenarios to support your requirements for access to Windows in a VDI.

Licensing can be complex, so always refer to as many dependable resources as possible, whether the Microsoft website, the Product Use Rights and Product List or your preferred Large Account Reseller (LAR).

One take away from this article is that 3rd party vendor solutions for Virtualization rarely provide you with the licensing implications and costs to provide Microsoft products over their technologies.

Microsoft have also strongly incentivised commitment to Subscription and Maintenance procurement models via Software Assurance (SA). So it is worth doing your research and understanding the total cost of ownership.

Please be aware that I now work at a Microsoft Partner  and will now be providing my licensing expertise through their licensing services . So please do get in contact with me directly if you would like to have a bespoke review for your organisation (available to organisations with UK operations).

Our specialist team can assist you to purchase the correct licenses, at the best price, through the right program.  Please email my directly to arrange a meeting or call.

– Tony Mackelworth


This document is provided “as-is”. Information and views expressed in this document, including URL and other Internet Web site references, may change without notice. This document does not provide you with any legal rights to any intellectual property in any Microsoft product.

Please be aware that nothing on this website constitutes specific technical advice. Some of the material on this website may have been prepared some time ago and therefore may have been superseded. Specialist advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances.

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4 thoughts on “Windows 8 Licensing Update

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