Software giant Microsoft is revising the conditions under which it licenses its operating system software to notebook makers, it emerged today.
But dealers had different understanding of the rules covering dual boot, where OS CDs for NT and Win95 are provided with the system.
Users have complained that systems disks were not provided with portables bought from Compaq, Toshiba and others, so that if a notebook went down, it could not be recovered without recourse to the vendor.
David Matthews, senior product manager of portables at Compaq UK, said: "We're providing different offerings for different markets. Presarios do have systems software but corporates throw away documents, CDs and everything else."
He admitted there were some licensing issues. "Dual boot is being moved away. Dual boot brings in more flexibility. Resellers are holding less inventory so it is easier to cope with."
But Luke Ireland, marketing director of assembler Evesham Micros, said the situation was different there.
He said: "We've been told that if you buy a machine with NT on it, you can now downgrade. Now Microsoft is telling us that we can do dual boot on our machines."
However, said Ireland, Evesham puts all of the disks in the boxes they ship, in case end users develop problems.
According to Brian Green, chief technical officer at distributor Interface, the vast majority of returns his company experienced were because dealers or end users chose the wrong dual-boot option.
He said that, once that decision was made, it was hard for dealers or end users to return to the OS they wanted, and that the reason large notebook vendors did not ship both NT and Win95 system disks was because Microsoft asked for two licensing fees.
Despite repeated calls to Microsoft, the company refused to comment on the varying of its licence system.
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