Microsoft makes more changes to VECD. They're still screwing us though.

Last week, ComputerWorld's Eric Lai wrote about the changes that Microsoft made to VECD.

Last week, ComputerWorld's Eric Lai wrote about the changes that Microsoft made to VECD. (VECD, for those of you who don't remember, stands for "Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop." It's the special license you need if you want to run multiple instances of Vista on your workstation via a local VMM or local hypervisor, or if you want to conenct to a remote instance of Vista via server-based computing in a VDI scenario.) The big downside to VECD is that it's an "add-on" license. So first you have to buy a Vista license (A Vista "Enterprise" license, to be exact.) Then you have to pay for Software Assurance. And only then to you qualify for the right to buy the VECD add-on license to let you run Vista remotely.

When I talk to people about VECD, a lot of them are honestly surprised to hear about it. "You mean I'm not allowed to remotely connect to Vista without it?" Nope. They didn't even know!

The big stink is that most of the world ("most" being defined as "everyone who doesn't work for Microsoft") wants Microsoft to just say, "Ok, you pay for one Vista license for each employee, and then however you figure is the best way to provide access to Vista is fine with us. Remote, local, one instance for each app--do whatever you need to do."

Yeah right. Keep dreaming.

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for Eric's article. On the phone he asked me why Microsoft wasn't getting more progressive here. My answer? Because they don't need to. They're a monopoly. The reality is that in today's world, you can't get away from Windows applications. And for the foreseable future, Windows applications will require Windows. And since only one company makes Windows, well, you know the rest...

Getting back to the specifics of last week's VECD announcement, Microsoft did offer some alternative VECD pricing, specifically offering a lower-priced version for contractors who come into an environment and for people who will connect occasionally from home. But VECD, as it is now, isn't going anyway until Microsoft feels enough market pressure to make a change. Remember, monopolies only innovate when they have to. (See related news searches on Goolge Android and Citrix XenDesktop.)

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Did you really say "fiduciary duties" in the interview?  ;-)
So if you already "own" an existing XP license at the desktop, and want to connect to a virtual desktop running in the data center, what's the licensing impact?

Actually, I think I said "fiduciary responsibilities." Sounds like a real grown up, eh?

For those that didn't read the article, Eric's question to me was something like "Why's Microsoft not getting progressive here," and my answer, in a addtion to the "because they don't have to part," was "hey, they're a public company. If they can get people to still pay for stuff, then their fiduciary responsibility is to their shareholders, not their customers."


Oh man... I've got bad news about XP my friend..

XP doesn't have anything like this. To be technically legal, you need to upgrade to Vista Enterprise, enroll those licenses in SA, buy the VECD add-on, and then exercise your downgrade rights to use XP instead.

OK, that hurts.....  Do you know if the same is true if all I want at the desktop is windows fundamentals, also only available to SA customers? I can't seem to get an answer on that from anyone at MS?

I think Windows Fundamentals is an apples and oranges thing... Fundamentals is meant to be a thin client OS, really geared for older hardware that can't run the new stuff, so you just install this super basic locked down OS to "convert" it to a thin client. Fundamentals doesn't even run real apps (just IE, ICA and RDP clients, Media player, etc.), so you wouldn't want to use it for VDI since it doesn't do anything.

If your question is whether you need a VECD license to run Windows Fundamentals on a client, the answer to that is no. As you as you have SA, you're good to go for fundamentals.


Thanks Brian. We're trying sort all this out for ourselves and our customers. Our Thin Desktop product is getting some serious traction in the Desktop Virtualization space.....and the MS licensing merry go round is something we have had to leave to our customers to sort out. One of our thoughts was to marry Thin Desktop with Windows Fundamentals at the client side (it works fine with existing XP or Vista) to lock the PC down to the broker or connection (RDP, ICA, etc.) to the Virtual Desktop (any vendor's solution) Check it out at let me know your thoughts!

You don't ever own the VECD license and you have to pay the SA EACH year to continue to use it!
What if you are using thin clients with linux or wyse OS , do you need an additional VECD license??

MS have a different licence VECD extension to this VECD for Thin Clients. Is costs more as the assumption is you have not paid for a full windows licence locally.

 To be honest the cost is not the issue or the annual cost - its the fact its device based. Have 200 users with 100 devices - great! You have 100 user who may want to log in from a work PC and home sometimes? Oh dear....

... is to ignore the license, wait for Microsoft to sue you, and then challenge the EULA under unfair contract rules
the VECD license is a more access license for the windows running in VMs on Server.  it is not about the windows running locally on the device  WInflp is covered by SA.

Same go for thin clients connecting to a hosted Vista desktop?


Don't really know...that's part of the confusion and the challenge. We've heard talk about a continuation of the MS "Thin Client Tax" ?? No idea if this changes under the new rules...nobody seems to have a straight or CONSISTANT answer.

We would like to have a clear answer as to  how MS users with an existing MS license on an existing PC / Client  will be affected when connecting to a virtual desktop on the server?? We would like to sort this out because our product, Thin Desktop, utilizes the existing MS license at the client location. Thin Desktop locks down the user PC so that the user experience  / interface becomes the connection / Virtual desktop.   We want to know if an additional ROI item is some sort of licensing savings because we utilize the existing OS on the PC.

Anybody out there have any ideas or expereince with this?  If you need more details, visit our website at


It makes no difference if you're running XP or Vista, you need Vista Licenses w/ SA + VECD.  Like any other Microsoft license, you are entitled to run any downlevel OS or program with a current product license.

Now for thin clients that are not capable of running an OS that is eligible for SA, Microsoft offers the VECD for Devices subscription.

So for PCs you need Vista Licenses + SA + VECD for SA which entitles you to run your local install of XP or Vista + up to four virtualized guest OS, whether they are client hosted or server hosted.

If you have thin clients you need only need VECD for Devices.

I blogged about this in detail several months ago, after our last MVP Summit with Microsoft:

A slightly different alternative is to run Server 2003 Containers for VDI on Parallels Virtuozzo, with only a single Datacenter license, which requires no VECD or SA whatsoever.  This is quite a bit different, as you're not connecting users to XP or Vista, but rather single user 2003 Servers, but for your ~ $5000 Windows Server Datacenter License you can virtualize as many 2003 Server containers as your hardware can handle for VDI.

So to recap, if you want to connect to a Virtualized Windows Client OS from a PC you need SA + VECD for SA (both subscriptions) and from a thin client or non-Windows client not eligible for SA you need VECD for Devices Subscription.


So, with regard to the volume xp licenses we purchased a couple of
years ago on a select agreement (hasn't been renewed and no plans for
vista at all), will I still need this ridiculous VECD scheme to begin
running those same xp desktops in a VDI model with non-ms thin clients
from (probably) wyse?
I work for a Thin Client & Citrix reseller in the UK and recently stumbled came across this VECD license add-on, it might help to give you a bit of background information. A client requested a VDI proposal that would allow them to offer a XP desktop to 2 new classrooms and remote users (90 people concurrently). Unfortunately due to the fact they had traditionally purchased OEM and versions of XP & MS office a Microsoft license upgrade was required in the first instance. Considering the fact this high school had 800 potential users the commercial figures equated to £4-5 per user, per month for a 3 year term (+£110k).  Signing up to this fee would allow them to walk down the path of upgrading to a Volume Select Agreement and bundling software assurance and VECD on top of this, just so they could downgrade this Vista desktop license to XP.

If my figures are correct that process works out at around £110k, which considering the customer only wanted to provide 90 users with a XP desktop using VDI technology in my humble opinion is quite excessive.

I will state at this point I'm a bit of a novice to virtualisation licensing structures and the other potential VDi vendors that could offer a similar solution but wouldn't require the VECD license upgrade, so I apologise for any obvious holes in my story.  

In conclusion two key elements are clear from my perspective, VDI isn't a tangible solution for all due to clients traditional MS license purchasing policies and secondly when people realise the VECD costs it makes the Citrix/TS solution costs a sweeter pill to swallow.