Licensing Apple Macbooks under Microsoft 365

Microsoft Volume Agreements do not offer licenses for the full Windows Desktop OS. This is an ‘upgrade license’ and requires the associated device to be already licensed with an ‘Qualifying Operating System’. Accordingly, this can impact how Apple Macs are licensed for your organization under a Microsoft 365 subscription model.

The ‘qualifying’ desktop OS is purchased pre-installed through an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), or System Builder, as a retail packaged product. This is commonly available as ‘Pro Edition’ as an OEM license.

Windows Pro OEM licenses alone do not confer virtualization rights to run Windows Desktop OS remotely.

An ‘upgrade license’, or a ‘full’ VDA subscription license must be purchased via a Volume Agreement with active Software Assurance to enable access remotely from your own data center, or to bring your licenses to a third-party dedicated host.

Accordingly, to support users with MacOS devices, the correct licensing model for Windows Desktop OS must be selected, this article will provide guidance on the appropriate licensing model to support your Apple Macs.

Per Device Licenses – When you purchase under an existing active volume agreement program, such as Enterprise Agreement (EA) and Open Value Company Wide (OV CW), you can use the software on devices licensed with specific prior qualifying versions of the software (Windows 8.1 or Windows 7).

When you purchase Windows desktop OS per-device licenses under a new volume agreement program, like Enterprise Agreement (EA), or Open Value Company Wide (OV CW), you can use the software on devices licensed with specific prior qualifying versions of the software (Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, or Apple MacOS).

If you purchase under a new or existingEducation program, you can use the software on devices licensed with all versions of the software. (Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP Pro). Windows Home Edition is also a ‘qualifying OS’ for the accessing device.

If you purchase under a new or existing Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA), or Select Plus program, you can use the software on devices licensed with specific prior qualifying versions of the software. (Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, or Apple MacOS).

User Subscription Licenses – Applicable to Windows Enterprise User Subscription Licenses, when you purchase a Windows desktop OS under a new or existing volume agreement such as Enterprise Agreement (EA), Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA), you can use the software on devices licensed only with specific prior qualifying versions of the software (Windows 8.1 or Windows 7).

Please refer to the Microsoft Product Terms for a comprehensive list of ‘qualifying operating systems’ (Ref: Microsoft Product Terms, May 2019, Pages 38-39 of 116).

Accordingly, as Windows Enterprise User Subscription Licenses are embedded in the Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 suites, MacOS is not a qualifying OS for Microsoft 365. 

VDA Subscription – under this licensing model, remote use of the Windows desktop OS deployed is allowed for any assigned licensed user. There is no minimum ‘primary’ user requirement for the end-user accessing device, and no requirement for a ‘qualifying’ Windows OS to be installed on the accessing device.

  • This VDA subscription licensing model is more suitable for businesses that plan to use Chromebooks or Apple Macs, or other client devices where there is no OEM licensed Windows desktop OS on the accessing device.

For customers that are purchasing Windows Enterprise E3 user licenses under a Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 user subscription, there is unfortunately no simple answer to licensing your MacOS devices under Microsoft 365:

The options programatically, are:

  • VDA Subscription via “additional product”, discounted (hopefully), and additive to Microsoft 365 USL,
  • Windows Enterprise Per-Device via a ‘new’ EA, or an MPSA,  to recognize MacOS as a ‘qualifying operating system’, and add Microsoft 365 “Add On” USLs
  • Break the single Microsoft 365 USL for component Office 365 model, or user profile  for a subset of users (working with Microsoft) and continue to license Windows Enterprise Per-Device on the appropriate agreement.
  • Notably, when purchased under a Microsoft Cloud Agreement (MCA), the program also does not permit remote access of the Windows Desktop OS in a virtual machine – Please refer to the Microsoft Product Terms for the use restrictions for Microsoft Cloud Agreement [Ref: Microsoft Product Terms, May 2019, Page 41 of 116].
  • Or, make a decision to change to Windows devices.

Thanks All


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Tony Mackelworth is Head of Microsoft Advisory Services at SoftwareONE

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