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Microsoft rolls out volume software ‘leases’

File under "simplifications and improvements"

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Redmond made it official late Thursday; volume licenses are going to be leased to businesses, in three-year chunks, effective 1 October, according to its new Enterprise Agreement Subscription scheme. This means that when the lease period is up, your MS Magic Stuff will stop working and you'll have to ante up again.

Come on, you don't think they developed their software activation scheme for laughs, do you?

Microsoft freely admits that customers who don't fall for the idea of upgrading frequently would end up paying more, but cheerfully dismisses this category of (intelligent) users as a piddling twenty per cent, hardly worth a second thought.

The company therefore proudly announced "simplifications and improvements" to its volume licensing programs.

In one of those dorky living-FAQ setups where a PR flack pretends to 'interview' a MS exec, company veep for Worldwide Licensing and Pricing Bill Henningsgaard enthuses on the new scheme.

"We are responding to requests from our enterprise customers to better meet their licensing needs, by offering simpler licensing programs with more choices," Henningsgaard gushes.

"Our new Enterprise Agreement Subscription program is a first step toward offering software-as-a-service -- this is something some of our customers already want, and that we anticipate many more will expect in the coming years."

Henningsgaard says that Microsoft had done such a piss-poor job of administering its vast plethora of licensing schemes and options that it's now forced to streamline it all into one where users will be forced to pay for eternity.

"In addition to replacing the current hodgepodge of upgrades with a simpler way to upgrade, our new licensing programs will provide customers with online license-management tools, including statements of their purchase histories and their license rights."

"Right now, customers must keep track of their license agreements and produce their own summaries."

This is, quite obviously, a rotten thing for which few have the time.

So, "customers will be able to access online statements, maintained by Microsoft, that summarize their worldwide purchase history. They will be able to quickly and easily review their license rights and more easily determine the most appropriate and cost-effective way to acquire the rights to future versions of software that meets the needs of their business."

Henningsgaard doesn't say that this sort of online self-auditing is a 'feature' which the company ought to have provided all along. He doesn't say that the volume schemes were too difficult for Microsoft to get a handle on and provide a decent, useful service; but it's all there in the subtext.

He also neglects to mention whether Luddite holdouts (standard licensees) will get any of these (admittedly attractive) auditing benefits, so we rather suspect they won't.

The threshold for participation has been graciously lowered from 500 desktops to 250 to entice more players; but since the savings from a subscription will be only about fifteen per cent a year compared with a standard volume license, it makes absolutely no sense for businesses which can get decent mileage out of their software to go that route.

You'll save money if you can go four or five years without an overhaul. And you'll save heaps of money if you can go six or eight years.

Of course, if you don't subscribe you may get a few visits from the compliance SWAT team; and this might then sell you on the idea of subscribing; but we're confident that a company as respectable as Microsoft wouldn't dream of targeting standard licensees for a lot of troublesome compliance inquiries as some sort of subscription marketing tactic.

Absolutely confident.... ®

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