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Compulsory Windows: for Macs, and people without PCs?

Outstanding new MS educaiton (sic) initiatives...

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Microsoft has come up with another novel way to make its software compulsory - an annual subscription licensing system for schools where you have to pay for all of the computers you're using, even if you don't want them to run the Microsoft software you're licensing. This includes Macs, and although the Ts & Cs of the agreement don't make it entirely clear what you're supposed to do with the Windows upgrades you end up buying for these machines, we bet putting them on eBay isn't a recommended option.

The precise implementation of the agreement seems to vary depending on what part of the world you're in, but the inclusion of Macs in the headcount, and the insistence that you have to count all PCs rather than just a specific number you want to license, is probably general. In the US "Microsoft Schools Agreement 3.0," for example, "100 per cent of all Pentiums, Power Macs, iMacs or better" are specified, whereas the FAQ document for the UK Microsoft School Agreement says "You need to count 100% of all Pentiums, Power Macs and iMacs."

The requirement is to some extent explicable in that schools operating both Intel and Apple machines are likely to want to standardise on applications, so it makes sense for them to tally up all of the machines in order to buy, say, Microsoft Office licences. But that presupposes that they're going to want to be able to do absolutely the same thing with every machine they own, and therefore license absolutely the same software for them, which is obviously not going to be true for everybody. Microsoft explains the requirement in near-religious terms: "School Agreement requires an institution-wide commitment."

The nature of the oppression seems not be be precisely the same, depending on which side of the pond you're on. In the UK you just count up the total number of eligible (i.e. compulsory, according to the redefinition of the word) machines, pay your dues then you get the following:

"Microsoft Office Standard and Professional Editions (for Windows and Macintosh)
Works Standard
Windows Upgrade
Core Client Access Licence
Encarta Reference Suite and Encarta Online
Visual Studio Professional
Microsoft Press Office Starts Here Step by Step Interactive"

Which is how you get your Windows upgrade for the Mac. In School Agreement 3.0, you take your number of eligible PCs (inc Macs, of course), then you select at least one product which you license for all eligible PCs. One of these packages is presumably the most popular, as it's the Desktop Package, which "Includes Office, Core CAL & Windows Upgrades," and offers discounts beyond what you'd get if you bought the components individually. So that's how you wind up buying Windows upgrades for Macs in the States.

And if you're kidding yourself it's impossible to top getting people to pay for software they don't want to run on Intel boxes, and for software they can't run on Apple boxes, check out the Microsoft UK Campus Agreement. This has you paying for software for people who don't even have computers.

According to the Campus Agreement FAQ, this is how it works. First you count up your total number of FTEs (Full Time Equivalents). An FTE is defined as all faculty and staff members "employed over 200 hours per annum" but this thoughtfully excludes "manual, ancillary, casual, maintenance, groundskeepers, cafeteria, and mailroom" staff, if you want to exclude them, that is, you can get a Windows upgrade for the canteen lady if you like. And yes, we know 200 hours per annum tallies up as five weeks work a year for normal people and ten for university lecturers, but that nevertheless is what it says.

The objectives of the campus agreement, according to Microsoft, are to "count people, not computers... to run the most current software versions [and to make] significant savings on software and licensing and a simple annual payment." The agreement can also be extended to cover students, so institutions signing up will inevitably end up paying for software licences for people who don't want or need to run the software, or who don't want or have computers.

In the interests of balance we should point out that the Campus Agreement and School Agreement FAQs both make clear that Open Licence and Select are still available, so the new subscription model isn't entirely compulsory, although we'd expect significant financial carrots and sticks to be associated with their introduction.

In the interests of cheap humour we're also going to point out that in the first par of the School Agreement 3.0 calculator page it currently says: "For exact pricing, contact an Authorized Educaiton Reseller (AER)." Educaiton? We've heard of it...

Finally, historians who've noted a certain similarity between the initiatives outlined above and that old 'per processor' licensing stuff, where OEMs paid Microsoft a fee for each machine they sold whether or not they shipped with Microsoft products on board, might care to remind themselves about this outstanding victory by the antitrust authorities. Of course that one only covered Intel boxes, not Macs and not people, so we've clearly come a long way in the intervening years. ®

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