Are Systembuilder OEM SKUs of Windows 8 are not a full Windows 8?

[German edition]Sometimes things are unbelievable. Recently I was stumbling upon such a case: Till yesterday I thought install media from Windows 8 SKUs are universal useable – as long, as they won't violate license issues. Now I found a possible trap for users buying a system builder OEM version of Windows 8 and intend to install it on existing touch screen hardware.


What's the beef?

Yesterday I stumbled upon a questions in German Microsoft Answers Forum. A user run into trouble, installing a OEM version of Windows 8 (Core) on a WeTab slate with touch screen (this slate is also distributed with brands like ExoPC and Lucid). First I thought, the user runs in a touch screen driver issue – because I use this device for test purposes – and I was able to install Windows 8 Pro RTM (obtained from my MSDN account) without major trouble. Especially the touch screen runs without a problem, although this device just supports 2 finger recognition, while certified touch screens requires 5 finger recognition at minimum.

Then I searched the web and found a similar thread in German Webtab-Community – where the same guy posted at MS Answers discussed this issue in a broader detail.  I also asked the question at, but the feedback proofed my understanding, that all install media should deliver the same feature. Only product key selects, which SKU will be installed/enabled.

A miracle is solved – the worse, the bad and the ugly

After I got 3 places within the web, where the issue was discussed, I came to the following conclusion:

  • People, who are using a Windows 8 RTM iso from a Technet/MSDN account was able to install without issues.
  • Users who decided to buy an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro was able to install without touch screen issues.
  • People, who are buying a system builder OEM version of Windows 8 or Pro are focusing heavy trouble – the touch screen won't work or run in "mouse mode".

Ups, could that bee? Maybe there was a faulty OEM install media? Today I found a new posting in Wetab-Community, linking to the english Micosoft OEM Partner Center. And there is now an addition, that solves the miracle.

Touch capability in Windows 8 OEM software

In order to promote the best "touch" experience on PCs, OEM System Builder software for Windows 8 will only support touch functionality on hardware that has been certified for touch in Windows 8. When buying Windows 8 System Builder software, look for hardware that carries the "Windows 8 Compatible" logo and that has passed certification for touch capability. Touch hardware that is not certified for Windows 8 and does not include a special code provided to OEMs during the certification process and injected into the touchscreen's firmware will not work once the System Builder product is installed; meaning that the PC will not be touch-enabled after Windows 8 is installed. Whenever customers are looking to upgrade a touch PC with a previous version of Windows, they should be directed to purchase the retail Windows 8 Upgrade SKUs. In addition, we recommend customers who are considering the Windows 8 System Builder product should be advised about the touch limitation to avoid any potential dissatisfaction. Remember that purchasing Windows 8 System Builder software for personal use does not come with support from Microsoft.

I guess, US law forced Microsoft to add this paragraph (in German version I could not find that hint). Well, overall this might be not a problem at first, because OEMs building systems should know the restrictions. And as a customer I can return a Windows 8 device, if it wont fit touch screen support.

But the trap lures behind the corner, because Microsoft decided to distribute this OEM versions also to end user. If a user buys an OEM version of Windows 8 (to get a full version, that is installable on systems without a previous Windows – or to avoid upgrade trouble and use a clean install) he will be trapped on all systems using touch screens not certified for Windows 8 (e.g. all 2 finger detecting devices).

Dunno! As far as I know, there isn't a Windows 8 retail version anymore. And if I rely on an OEM version of Windows 8, I can't use this media on non certified hardware. So, I'm forced to install Windows XP, Vista or 7 on this old hardware, buy an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro und install. How crazy is that? Especially, if people run in upgrade issues and tries to upgrade a machine multiple times?

This restriction is valid for all devices coming with non certified touch screens. Needless to say, that this stands in contradiction to statements given by Microsoft's vice president Steven Sinofsky and Tami Reller Windows 8 will run on all Windows 7 devices. It will be interesting, how long it takes, to see the first US law suite filed against Microsoft concerning this issue.


Overall: I'm struggling here to understand how Microsoft's upper management made some decisions. Windows 8 upgrades are causing heavy trouble (although in most cases third party components are the reason). But, if a user intend to avoid this trouble and buy a system builder OEM version (suitable for clean install), he will facing serious issues with his legacy hardware. Well done Microsoft!

BTW: I will be glad, if my findings are not true – or if Microsoft will change their SKU policy.

1: Windows 8 (RTM) auf dem WeTab Tablet PC (German)
2: OEM Partner Center
3: MS Answers-Thread (German)
4: Forum der Webtab-Community (German)
5: discussion

Advertising – my Windows 8 titles

(c) by Günter Born
The source of smart computer books

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