licensing plan seeds user revolt
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
18-24, 2005; issue 834
High Tech Office
The software on the millions of computers belonging to large
organizations is licensed in a different way from the software on the
computers in my home office, or in typical small businesses.
Generally, large organizations buy bulk licences from software vendors.
It used to be that organizations would buy a licence for a piece of
software just once. After that, they might pay a fee for support or pay
again if they chose to upgrade to a newer version. Four years ago,
moved to a
new model of licensing. Software Assurance required customers to pay 25
per cent to 33 per cent of the original licence cost each year to
install and use whichever Microsoft product(s) they had licensed, while
Microsoft provided support and any new versions of the products
released over the life of their licence.
Now, with many companies reaching the end of their three-year licence
agreements, some are questioning whether they've gotten their money's
worth. Part of this is due to the slowdown of the formerly frantic pace
of software upgrades. Microsoft's last major operating system release,
Windows XP, for instance, came out in 2001, while release of the next
version, Windows Vista (formerly known as Longhorn), has been postponed
until late 2006.
"We've paid 29 per cent a year for three years, and for what?" wrote
one reader to computer columnist Ed
"Where's Longhorn? Where's Office 12? This has to be one of the biggest
sucker jobs of all time, and they still have the gall to tell us we
need to sign up again so as not to lose the 'value' of our investment.
Who knows if there'll be any 'value' in anything they ship the next
three years either."
Another commented: "Microsoft simply hasn't delivered what it promised.
We didn't pay all this money to get TechNotes or training vouchers."
Microsoft product manager Sunny
that the company has been revising its licensing scheme in response to
feedback from volume licensing customers as the company announced
changes to ensure customers don't let their Software Assurance
Announcing seven different versions of the upcoming Windows Vista,
Microsoft stated that an Enterprise version, with features aimed at
large organizational users, would be made available only to Software
Assurance or Enterprise Agreement customers. Among the promised
features: full volume encryption data protection, a potential benefit
to users whose notebooks go missing, and a version of Virtual PC
built-in, for users with applications that require older versions of
A special Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs is being readied,
promising Windows XP-style security on hardware that is only capable
for older, less-secure Windows versions. Starting next March, Software
Assurance customers in organizations with at least 30,000 Windows or
Office licences are promised additional training vouchers for
organizations and 24/7 support instead of the current business
But Manitoba Hydro systems support specialist Robert Bagamery
responded to the Software Assurance announcement, calling it "the
latest Microsoft cash grab.... You shouldn't have a gun to your head,"
he said, noting companies should be able to buy Vista Enterprise and
other enhanced features whether or not they subscribe to Software
Gartner Inc. analyst Alvin Park told Computerworld that companies
should carefully evaluate Software Assurance, because some of the new
features could save money. But he can't issue a blanket recommendation:
"Every customer is different in what they need and what they want."
magazine reports that at least one client, Australia's New South Wales
Office of State Revenue, has concluded its better off moving to Linux
on the desktop when its Software Assurance plan expires, citing costs
estimated at one/sixth that of a Windows upgrade.