Updated 8 Feb 07: Mac users wanting to run Vista on their Macintosh will have to buy an expensive version of Vista if they want to legally install it on their systems using virtualization technology.*

Microsoft slugs Mac users with Vista tax

It appears Microsoft doesn’t want to make life easy for Mac users

The end-user license agreement for the cheaper versions of Vista (Home Basic and Home Premium) explicitly forbids the use of those versions  on virtual machines (ie Macs pretending to be PCs):

“You may not use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system,” the end user license agreement states.

However, the more expensive Vista Enterprise and Ultimate Editions, can be installed on a virtual machine. From the end user license agreement:

“You may use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed device. If you do so, you may not play or access content or use applications protected by any Microsoft digital, information or enterprise rights management technology or other Microsoft rights management services or use BitLocker. We advise against playing or accessing content or using applications protected by other digital, information or enterprise rights management technology or other rights management services or using full volume disk drive encryption.”

The Home Basic version of vista costs US$199, compared to US$299 for the Enterprise edition (the cheapest version of Vista for everyone else, compared to the cheapest version of Vista for Mac users). This means that Mac users are being slugged an extra $100 (let’s call it a tax) for simply being Mac users.

It  also seems that even if you do buy and install the more expensive version of Vista on your Mac, you’re not able to play or access content protected by Microsoft’s digital rights management system, for fear that the full volume disk encryption won’t work.

Parallels Desktop for Mac is a hardware emulation vitalization software package that allows Mac users to install Vista on their systems. The head of marketing at Parallels, Ben Rudolph, is understandably upset by Microsoft’s licensing policy:

To me, this strategy could hold back users who embrace cutting-edge technologies like vitalization, which means they won’t upgrade to Vista. This means that Microsoft has effectively lost an upgrade customer (in the case of Windows PCs) or an entirely new customer (for Mac and Linux users),” wrote Rudolph on Parallel’s official blog.

With Microsoft being tardy about a new version of Mac Office (apparently it’s coming in later this year), and the feud between Gates and Jobs intensifying in recent weeks, Mac users could be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft is going out of its way to make life difficult.

Update/clarification – the Vista end-user license agreement does not forbid the installation of Vista using Apple’s Bootcamp. However, if Vista is installed using Bootcamp, you cannot run it concurrently with Mac OS. With Bootcamp, all you’ve got is a PC living in the body of your Mac – you can either use the PC or use the Mac, not both at the same time. In which case, what’s the point?

This article originally appeared in on February 7, 2007.