Some answers and updates on Microsoft Action Pack questions we’ve been hearing

Below is some updated information and answers to some of the more common questions we have been seeing and receiving regarding the Microsoft Action Pack subscription.  As a reminder, you can join Tram Nguyen and me, later today for our “Understanding the latest MAPS Updates” Live Meeting session where we will be addressing your questions and concerns while also providing more information regarding the policies and changes.


Downgrade Rights

We received several communications from our Action Pack subscribers, in which they expressed concerns regarding the removal of Windows XP from the Action Pack and the replacement with Windows Vista. In order to avoid confusion, we would like to clarify the requirements of the agreement.


In accordance with the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS) agreement and the program guide, Partners are encouraged (but not required) to upgrade to the most recent version of any product included in the MAPS kit within six months. To the extent you have certain constraints that prevent you from upgrading your systems to Windows Vista, you may keep using your existing product licenses, even if you are renewing your subscription and the product is no longer included in the subscription.


We believe that Windows Vista is an incredible value for your business and your customers’ business, and we truly hope that you will chose to upgrade and experience this new product.


Note: This is not the same as Downgrade Rights.  Action Pack does not have downgrade rights.  This updated policy means that as long as you continue to keep your Action Pack subscription current, you can use prior versions of the software that you have received through Action Pack in the past.  If you did not receive the prior versions in your Action Pack in the past, you cannot use those versions. 


For instance, someone who just subscribed to Action Pack for the first time in January 2007 would have received their first kit, which includes Windows Vista Business Upgrade and Office 2007.  They were not Action Pack subscribers when Windows XP Pro Upgrades were included, so they would not have any rights to Windows XP Pro through Action Pack.  If a Partner did have a pre-existing Action Pack subscription back when the Windows XP Pro Upgrades were included, and they kept their Action Pack subscription current by renewing it, then this Partner would retain the rights to use the Windows XP Pro Upgrade in lieu of the Windows Vista Business Upgrade, if they chose. 


Vista Business vs. Ultimate

We received several questions from our Action Pack subscribers regarding the Windows Vista SKUs and the inclusion of Windows Vista Business in the Microsoft Action Pack.  Further information regarding the Windows Vista offerings is provided below:


·         Windows Vista Business is recommended for a majority of the business customer segment and thus is considered the most appropriate version for Action Pack subscribers to experience.

·         Windows Vista Enterprise is available only to organizations with desktops covered by Software Assurance agreements or with a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement that includes the Windows desktop component.  Windows Vista Enterprise includes additional technologies such as: BitLocker, Multi-User Language Interface, rights to (4) Virtual O/S instances on the licensed PC, and additional application compatibility.

·         Windows Vista Ultimate is a consumer and small business edition that is aimed at high-end users, gamers, multimedia professionals and personal computer enthusiasts. Windows Vista Ultimate is available through retail as a packaged product, as a pre-install on a new computer, or via volume licensing to customers as a part of their Software Assurance agreement. Partners can upgrade to the Windows Vista Ultimate for $139 (USD) using a new technology available with Windows Vista called Windows Anytime Upgrade.  This is a per PC upgrade.  (i.e. To upgrade 5 of your Windows Vista Business Upgrade licenses to Windows Vista Ultimates, you would need to purchase (5) Windows Anytime Upgrades).


I have been running Windows Vista RC1. Can I upgrade to Windows Vista Business?

·         Yes, it is possible to upgrade from Windows Vista RC1 to Windows Vista RTM, if you are running the same SKU of the OS.  For example, you can upgrade the RC1 version of Windows Vista Business to the RTM version of Windows Vista Business.  If you are running the RC1 version of a Vista SKU other than Business, you cannot upgrade that machine to the RTM version of Vista Business.  You would need to do a clean installation instead.


Move from full version to upgrade only (for North America and EMEA)

In response to feedback we are received from partners regarding the abuse of the Microsoft Action Pack subscription, Microsoft changed some of the software media available through the subscription.

As of  July 2006,( October 2006 in Western Europe) Microsoft offers only the UPGRADE version of the Windows desktop operating system within Action Pack, which is consistent with how this product is distributed to our Volume Licensing customers. The total number of Windows Upgrade licenses remains at 10.


We continue to evaluate the software benefit included in this subscription in order to ensure it meets the needs of our partners while adding necessary license compliance measures to ensure we are able to continue to offer this valuable benefit for our partners. Please visit the Action Pack web page for additional information.  


NOTE: This change took place back in July, 2006 here in the US.  This is not a recent change, even though some people currently seem to believe this is new for the January edition.


Removal of OEM software

We recently completed a worldwide study of Microsoft Action Pack subscribers to better understand the needs of our subscribers.  OEM software was not prioritized relative to other software benefits and consistently was among the lowest utilization of the software benefits provided.  Thus we removed the OEM software in order to streamline the subscription and enable us to offer new products such as the Windows Server 64B Operating System and Expression.


System builders can purchase System Builder OEM product from an Authorized Microsoft OEM Distributor to evaluate, validate, setup and preinstall.  As long as the software is not activated during the validation and testing process, it is fine to resell it to a customer.


No download option

Currently, MSDN is available as a benefit to Certified and Gold Certified Partners only.  MSDN provides partners with ability to download their partner licensing benefits.  Registered Members have the option of subscribing to the Microsoft Action Pack in order to receive internal use licenses for desktop products. The Microsoft Action Pack is currently a physical kit delivered on a quarterly basis.  Microsoft is currently working with the MSDN team to determine whether online downloads could be used to deliver software benefits to our Registered Members.  We will keep partners informed regarding those efforts but anticipate this will not be a near term option.  Thus, for the foreseeable future Microsoft Action Pack will continue to be the delivery software benefits delivery vehicle for Registered Members


Thank you and have a wonderful day,


Eric Ligman

Microsoft US Senior Manager

Small Business Community Engagement

This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights

Comments (22)

  1. f says:

    my subscription exipes this month, i think i’m happy watch it lapse. shame really.

  2. Bob Muir says:

    Excellent!  Common sense prevails!

    Now, how ’bout saying specifically how we can run Action Pack software in our business without allowing interaction with external contacts.

    In other words, can we run SBS/Server2003/Exch2007 etc. for our business, and if so, where does it say that?

  3. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Bob Muir

    Bob, It’s included in the Action Pack Initiative Addendum which is in your MAPS Kit.  It states:

    Section 3.3

    "The licenses are provided for use ar your primary business location only and must be used only for your internal business purposes, application development and testing."

  4. mssmallbiz says:

    @ f

    I’m sorry to hear you no longer see value in your MAPS subscription.  Please remember that once it expires, you no longer have rights to any of the software included in it and you must uninstall all of it and destroy your media that you received.  If you should change your mind in the future, you can re-subscribe again in the future.  You will be foregoing your grandfathered version rights though as stated above in the post, since your subscription will have lapsed.

  5. Bob Muir says:

    “Bob, It’s included in the Action Pack Initiative Addendum which is in your MAPS Kit.”

    Yes, but how can you run a business when you’re only allowed to use it “internally”?  Sending and receiving email is not internal.  Where is “internal business purposes” defined?

  6. Paul Petitt says:

    I am wondering if it is ok to order the 64 bit version of Vista DVD from Microsoft and use the product key provided with the Action Pack to install it.  It is my understanding that the only retail edition  (FPP or upgrade) which ships with both dvds is Vista Ultimate, so it would seem that is the normal path to go from 32bit Vista Business to 64bit Vista business.

  7. Kevin,

    Thanks very much for this info.  You’ve cleared up a lot of the debates that have been raging of late.  Lots of folks seem to be using the confusion to rag on Microsoft, but I understand that in a giant-size organization like yours, it sometimes takes a few days (or even weeks) to get ironclad, authoritative answers to these kinds of licensing questions.

    Just putting in my $0.02 worth here, but I think the download option would be a welcome addition to the MAPS program.  Personally speaking, I would even be willing to pay extra $$ to get quicker access to the new software (vice waiting for the CD’s to show up at my doorstep).  I’m getting lots of questions about Vista that I can’t answer, so if I can get the software sooner, I’m willing to ante up for that privilege.

    — Steve Moffett

  8. f says:

    yup, more than away of that.

    there’s a certain irony that you ship virtual pc with a MAPS subscription yet now no longer offer a way for subscribers to legally use the software.

  9. Joe says:

    The ‘Windows Vista Ultimate isn’t really for businesses’ explanation doesn’t quite work for me. Vista Business is a subsetted OS (and of course Home Premium), with important features ripped out.  I strongly suggest that you offer subscribers a prioritized (i.e., cheaper or more flexible) option for upgrading to Ultimate.

  10. Rob Miles says:

    My biggest complaint is that I just got the perfect computer (through a client) to install the Vista Business Upgrade on, but I’m using a clean hard drive.  So I have to go through the steps of installing an older Windows FIRST before I can install Vista.  

    Nobody in their right mind, in the real world, upgrades from a previous version of Windows, especially if they’ve been running it for more than 6 months.  You always do a clean install, and you provide proof of having a previous version when the installer asks for it.  Forcing Action Pack subscribers to use an inferior method is just plain crazy.

    Microsoft may have their reasons for making this change, but it’s just another example of how their schemes hurt the honest users far more than it hurts the dishonest ones.

  11. Buddy Greenshield says:

    I agree that a downloading option would be a welcome addition to MAPS.  Another feature I would like to see is a way to manage license keys online like I do for my SA and open value customers.

  12. Charlie says:

    I am a current MAPS subscriber (have been for 2 or 3 years).

    I have one internal machine that I have XP Professional X64 running.

    When I use my MAPS Vista upgrade DVD, it fails, saying I need to either do a clean install or a Vista 64 bit upgrade.

    I called the MAPS phone # and was told there is no Vista 64 bit version available in the MAPS program.

    Is this correct?

  13. Rev says:

    I ordered my Action Pack in December, and due to an error by UPS it was returned to Microsoft.  When I called the MAPS phone number I was they’d send another kit.  When that kit never came I called again and was basically told that the XP kit was no longer available.  

    I have workstations without an OS that I had delivered to my office based on the assumption that Microsoft would fulfill its commitment.  Vista is not compatible with my two main applications.

    To say I’m angry, disappointed, and frustrated would be an understatement.

  14. Chaim Lee says:

    Since the Vista ultimate Upgrade is not included in my MAPS, I would like to know if I can buy and use Vista Ultimate OEM DVD to upgrade the Ultimate RC1 that I have installed on one of my machines?

  15. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Chaim Lee

    OEM software can only be purchased by System Builders unless purchased with fully assembled computer systems.  You can see more about this in my post on Feb. 18th:  If you are interested in Vista Ultimate, there is the Vista Ultimate Upgrade offer included in your MAPS kit that you can use to get Vista Ultimate.

  16. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Rev

    Rev – I am very sorry to hear about the difficulty you had with receiving your MAPS kit.  Did you also submit this feedback to the MAPS Team @  They should definitely hear about the errors you experienced with UPS, etc.

    As for your statement of, "I have workstations without an OS that I had delivered to my office based on the assumption that Microsoft would fulfill its commitment" even if you had received the kit in December with the XP bits in it, only Windows XP Pro Upgrades were included, so they would not have done you any good since you don’t have a qualifying Operating System license on your machines in order to have used the XP Pro Upgrades anyway.  The Windows XP Pro licenses included in MAPS have been upgrade licenses since July 2006, which is waaaaay before you ordered your MAPS kit.

  17. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Charlie

    Vista 32 bit was included in the January 2007 MAPS kit, not Vista 64 bit.  I would suggest sending your input on including 64 bit Vista in future shipments to:

  18. Rev says:

    I realize that the licenses are upgrade licenses, however I have three XP Home licenses that were never upgraded to SP2 or Pro.  From a practical standpoint (XP security flaws corrected by SP2) I have no USABLE operating system for those computers.

    I have spent nearly ten hours altogether trying to resolve this issue by calling MAPS.  I was originally told that they would reship the Welcome Kit.  When it didn’t come (again!) I called back to be told it was no longer “available”.  After two more telephone conversations, the end result was that I received duplicates of some of the media from the January Update (which I already had received).  

    When I tried to contact MAPS via e-mail I received a form response telling me that I could call and order XP over the phone from the general Microsoft Sales Department.

    My frustration is becoming anger and resentment.

  19. Jack Stow says:

    Is there a URL for the Vista Ultimate upgrade specifically  for the USD139 deal for Action Pack subscribers?

  20. As you may know, there has been a time or two where a question about the Microsoft Action Pack has arisen

  21. Cor Tadema says:

    While I can understand (but not agree) with the reasoning behind using the Vista Business edition versus the Ultimate edition, fail to understand why microsoft provided the 32 Bit version and not the 64 bit version of Vista.

    I don’t see any situation that would have my customers installing anything else then the 64 bit version as the system requirements are such that most customers will replace the PC with one that supports 64 bit.

    This also means that I won’t be able to support some of my customer problems unless I purchase the upgrade to the 64 bit version.

    Since the actionpack has included the 32 & 64 bit version of Windows XP, whay change this for Vista  

  22. Ed Kennedy says:

    The action pack business upgrade dvd will install on a clean hard drive, first install clean but don’t enter a key, and deselect the activate automatically option.  Then choose your version, business, and install.  Afterwards, insert the dvd from within vista, and do the upgrade installation, entering the key and allowing it to update.

    NOTE: You must have a qualifying full Windows license to upgrade from in order to legally run Windows Vista using a Windows Vista Upgrade License.