This article was written by CNET News.com's Ina Fried.
Although there are plenty of places that rent out time on Windows-based computers, doing so had never been strictly, speaking, legitimate.
The licensing terms for Windows (and Office) prohibit such use even though there are thousands of Internet cafes, business centers, and kiosks that do so. Starting January 1, though, Microsoft added an option for those that wish to rent out Windows or Office to do so by paying an extra fee.
"Windows desktop operating system and Microsoft Office system licenses do not permit renting, leasing, or outsourcing the software to a third party," Microsoft notes on its Web site. "As a result, many organizations that rent, lease, or outsource desktop PCs to third parties (such as Internet cafes, hotel and airport kiosks, business service centers, and office equipment leasing companies) are not compliant with Microsoft license requirements."
The new "rental rights" option adds a waiver of the licensing terms, allowing such use in exchange for a one-time license fee for each Windows PC or Office copy being rented out.
"Rental Rights are a simple way for organizations to get a waiver of these licensing restrictions through a one-time license transaction valid for the term of the underlying software license or life of the PC," Microsoft said.
In an effort to boost initial sales of the option, and perhaps ease the burden of having to pay for something that many organizations were doing for free, Microsoft is offering 30 percent off the license fees for those that sign up by June 30.
News of the new option was reported earlier on Monday by, among others, ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley.
Foley quotes Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot as saying that the rental add-on for Office Professional, with the discounts, is $58, while Office Standard costs $45, and Windows is $23. Those are one-time fees good for the life of the PC or underlying Office license and are in addition to the cost of the copy of Office or Windows itself.
By Ina Fried