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In three weeks time, corporate IT people, your Microsoft software licensing regime is completely screwed if you haven't done something about Licensing 6, which kicks in on 1st August. From that point you'll be unable to license Select version 5, Upgrade Advantage (UA) and Software Assurance (SA) on products you've already got and, as the good people from Gartner point out in this handy ready-reckoner, if you haven't figured out your options and taken appropriate action, you could end up paying 45 per cent more next time you upgrade.

Gartner does not suggest never upgrading again and phasing in Linux systems instead as an alternative, but really that's a leap you should have been planning from the moment Licensing 6 was announced, rather than at this late stage.

Gartner suggests a couple of defensive strategies that are particularly applicable for companies who don't want to upgrade quite as fast as Microsoft would like. Companies planning near-term upgrades on the likes of Office 97, NT 4.0 Server, Exchange 5.5 and SQL Server 7.5, for example, should consider squeaking in to buy Upgrade Advantage on them before the deadline. Companies planning upgrades on current products (just about anything with a 2000 or an XP in it) should look at Software Assurance before the deadline.

And companies looking for bargains (a relative term, we accept) should scan the literature for Microsoft 'hurry hurry' special deals designed to induce them to make the deadline.

All of this naturally involves spending money, and spending it now, but there you go. By a miraculous coincidence, a ring round of analysts by the good people at Reuters (you can find it here) reveals that they expect great things from Redmond's Q4s, on the back of a buying rush for the new licensing regime. Nice to see your money's getting a good home. ®

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