Microsoft will restrict Windows 7 "upgrade rights" for Vista and XP users to 25 machines at any single street address, meaning that larger companies will have to go through volume licensing for their migration plans, according to a website chronicling the rollout of the forthcoming operating system.
Larger companies will have to rely on their Software Assurance (SA) maintenance contracts as the foundation for their upgrade path, but those without SA won't get any upgrade break at all beyond the first 25 PCs.
SA gives users rights to upgrade to new versions of any software they have under their SA maintenance contract.
The 25-machine limit will likely mean that any company without SA won't execute on migration plans until after Windows 7 ships. Given the length of many corporate migrations, that means companies without SA likely won't be deploying Windows 7 for at least a year after it ships.
A Windows 7 final beta, called a Release Candidate, is rumored to be coming out next month. Microsoft still says the final shipment of Windows 7 will be early in 2010, but many observers think the operating system could ship this fall.
The website TechARP.com reported over the weekend that Microsoft would include rights to get Windows 7 for users buying PCs now loaded with Vista and for some running XP.
Microsoft does this by offering "downgrade" rights, where users purchase a Windows 7 licence as part of their PC and then downgrade it to Vista. Once Microsoft ships Windows 7, the PC owner gets the newest operating system from the PC hardware manufacturer.
The program is aimed at consumers and is offered by Microsoft in order to encourage users not to wait for the new operating system in order to purchase a new PC.
But corporations with more than 25 users don't get the same options, mainly because those with valid SA maintenance deals will get Windows 7 when it ships, as part of their contracts.
For users without SA, they will either have to buy an SA contract or pay full cost to replace the operating system on any machine purchased before Windows 7 shipped.
TechARP says Microsoft has confirmed that it is restricting users to 25 Windows 7 upgrades per brick-and-mortar address. Companies with branch offices could get around that restriction by getting 25 upgrades at each office.
Furthermore, the TechARP report says, Microsoft is limiting users to five Windows 7 upgrades per visit to the upgrade fulfillment Web site. So an organization with 15 PCs would have to make three separate requests in order to upgrade all its PCs.
Microsoft has followed similar upgrade policies for consumer and corporate users during the shipment of past operating systems.