Note: Since this article was originially published, Microsoft has extended the transition deadline to June 30, 2007. Read this blog entry for more details.
If you owned (or were licensed for) Windows XP Professional before April 24, 2003, you are eligible to receive a free Windows Server 2003 Terminal Server Client Access License (TS CAL). However, I just learned that this program will expire on December 31, 2005, so make sure you get your free license soon.
As you might remember, in the days of Windows 2000 you did NOT have to buy a TS CAL if you were using a Windows 2000 client to run Terminal Server or Citrix sessions off of a Windows 2000 Terminal Server. The general idea was that since you paid for Windows 2000 already on the client, there was no reason to “charge” you again for using Windows 2000 via Terminal Server.
This was fine for the years of 2000 and the first part of 2001. However, in late 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP. Users were also allowed to use Windows XP Professional to connect to Windows 2000 Terminal Servers without having to buy a Windows 2000 TS CAL (since the Windows XP license is backwards-compatible as a Windows 2000 license).
A few years later Microsoft released Windows Server 2003. Unfortunately, they decided that they would no longer offer free TS CAL licenses, so owners of Windows XP would have to purchase Windows Server 2003 TS CALs. Of course news of this would seriously upset everyone who had bought Windows XP Professional prior to the announcement of this rule and the release of Windows Server 2003 (since they assumed they'd be able to use Windows XP Professional to connect to Terminal Server sessions on the equivalent server version of the project). To mitigate this issue, people who bought (or were licensed for) Windows XP Professional prior to the release of Windows Server 2003 (on April 24, 2003), are able to contact Microsoft to receive a free Windows Server 2003 TS CAL for each copy of Windows XP Professional that they owned.
You can get your free Windows Server 2003 TS CAL (device or user license, your choice), from Microsoft’s Terminal Server 2003 Licensing Transition website. This capability has been around for several years.
Unfortunately, Microsoft will end the transition process on December 31, 2005. If you don’t request your free license by then, it will be too late.
Therefore, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to double-check that you have all of the licenses you’re entitled to.