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Microsoft licence policy crumbles under fire

Microsoft staff break own Terminal Server licence agreement shock horror

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Microsoft has no plans to change its thin client licensing policies - but under heavy fire from users at this week's Citrix Thinergy conference in Orlando, Florida, the company conceded that this and other licensing issues were under review. Many observers felt the current policy was unsustainable, and that Microsoft would shortly buckle under pressure. Speaking in the wake of a coded attack on Microsoft's policies by FedEx CTO Robert Carter, company Terminal Server Product Manager Solveig Whittle said: "We don't have any plans to change our model and move to concurrent licences at this point." She did however concede that Microsoft had "a number of different licensing schemes," and that it was looking at ways to converge them. Unlike partner Citrix, which operates a concurrent licensing scheme for its thin client product lines, Microsoft insists on each client, whatever the actual hardware, having an NT Workstation licence and an NT Client Access Licence (CAL). Effectively, Microsoft's approach is designed to bring the company precisely the same amount of revenue as it would derive from a full-scale PC running NT Workstation and connected to an NT network. Whittle's justification for this is that the client is gaining access to all of NT's services and to NT software, is therefore effectively equivalent to an NT PC, and should be charged for equivalently. Concurrent licensing as practised by Citrix however can support a far larger total number of users at lower cost. Citrix, which announced its two millionth licence earlier this week, estimates that this represents a total of eight million users. Numbers of this sort would clearly damage Microsoft's revenue base, so you can see Whitttle's point. But having set out her policy clearly, and having stated that it wasn't going to change, Whittle proceeded to undermine it again. She told the audience she runs Windows 98 at home, connecting to Terminal Server, but "I don't have a Windows NT Workstation licence". Does that mean she's breaking her own licence agreement? "I asked that question," she said. "And so we've got people working on it." In reality, it's perfectly clear that Whittle is breaking her own licence policy, and that the two main issues she identifies as needing to be resolved, the Internet and home working, are likely to contribute to its ultimate demise. The ability of large and increasing numbers of diverse and special-purpose devices to connect to NT networks and run NT applications remotely makes it less and less likely that Microsoft can continue to apply a corporate seat licensing policy. Especially when its customers are also increasingly chafing at the notion that a user working from home as well as the office should have to pay through the nose for the ability to do so. ®

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