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IT managers stick with Windows, new terms and all – IDC

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Business customers are in no hurry to upgrade to Windows XP and Windows.Net, but if the results of an IDC survey released this week are to be believed, there's little or no chance of them rising in revolt against Redmond either. They are, according to IDC, "walking - not running - toward implementing [Microsoft's] new technologies and practices," but on the other hand they're "not concerned" about Microsoft's new licensing terms and conditions, "License 6.0."

That is probably far more significant than the alleged slowness of adoption of new software. Business customers are always slow in upgrading, for obvious and understandable reasons. IDC's survey of 300 IT managers revealed that 75 per cent of them were still in the early stages of Windows 2000 adoption, so plus ca change - Microsoft might want businesses to switch over to WinXP straight away, but that kind of revolution hasn't happened in the past, and it's not going to happen now.

License 6.0, however, was intended to push them onto Microsoft's preferred speedy replacement cycle, and caused a massive outcry when it was announced last year. According to Microsoft it provides "the most economical way to stay current with Microsoft products," and actually this is true enough. The trouble is that although it might save you money if your company always buys and installs the latest as a matter of course, it doesn't save you anything like the money you'd save if you didn't upgrade in the first place.

Effectively, License 6.0 is stacked in favour of the Microsoft preferred approach to upgrades, and loaded against the slower upgrade cycles that are more prevalent in the corporate market. Consequently, it produced a massive outcry among corporate customers when it was announced, and in response Microsoft extended the "launch period" for the programme until the end July 31st 2002. But it didn't change License 6.0 itself, just delayed its implementation.

This may have been enough. According to IDC most IT managers are either still evaluating it, or aren't concerned about it. One therefore suspects that whatever revolutionary fervour they may have had when they first heard about License 6.0 has been delayed and schmoozed out of them, and that old Microsoft secret weapon, inertia, has started to kick in.

IDC does report that 15.4 per cent of respondents "say that Licensing 6.0 provides them incentive to seek alternate products, citing the increase in Microsoft’s software licensing cost as the primary reason." But note that they're only saying it provides them with incentive - they're not categorically saying they're going to investigate alternatives.

As IDC Operating Environments research manager Al Gillen puts it: "The bigger picture shows that few customers will be replacing their Microsoft technology with alternate products over the short term, so competitive products need to continue to offer a strong story of interoperability with Microsoft environments."

Which suggests that after its initial mis-step with License 6.0 Microsoft has successfully extricated itself and looks set to make the new Ts & Cs stick. It won't get them all to adopt the latest products now, but through the wonders of Microsoft licensing regimes they'll still be paying for them, "staying current" from a licensing point of view while continuing to run and even install the older software until they're ready to actually upgrade. It's nice money if you can get it, and they can, they can... ®

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