Dual-core processor users will not need to buy extra licences for Microsoft software.
Under a revised software licensing policy, Microsoft will now consider dual or multicore processors as if they are a single chip, said Cori Hartje, director of marketing and readiness with Microsoft's worldwide licensing and pricing group.
"What we're trying to do here is make sure that customers can upgrade to this new technology without having to pay a premium for software costs," she said.
The announcement means that customers who purchase a number of Microsoft products that are licensed on a per-processor basis, including Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft BizTalk Server, will not see a sudden jump in licensing fees as they move to dual-core processors.
Dual-core processors made by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are due to be shipped next year.
Licensing policy for products such as Windows Server 2003 or Exchange Server, which require more expensive "Enterprise" licensing when they run on systems with more than four processors, will remain unchanged, Hartje said. "You could certainly use four dual-core processors and still be using a Standard Edition," she said.
In recent years, microprocessor suppliers have begun designing chips with more than one processing unit, or "core," on the chip in an effort to boost performance for certain types of applications.
As far as the software running on the systems is concerned, dual-core chips appear to be two separate processors, raising the question of whether or not they should require two software licences.
To date, there have been different answers to this question. Oracle's licensing policy, for example, treats dual-core chips as if they are two separate processors, while Red Hat has taken the opposite tack.
The policy could put pressure on Oracle and other software houses to adopt a similar approach to software licensing, said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report.
"It will make Microsoft's solutions in these multicore processors more cost-effective than competing Oracle solutions," he said.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service