Microsoft later this year plans to raise the bar on a popular software trial program in response to reports that some partners have been illegally selling its software.
The Action Pack allows Microsoft's Registered level partners to obtain up to 10 licenses for Microsoft desktop applications and operating systems, and single server licenses with up to 10 Client Access Licenses (CALs).
The Action Pack is intended for internal business testing and evaluation and also includes technical demonstration and marketing materials. However, some Microsoft partners have been breaking the rules by selling the Action Pack software to customers, according to solution providers.
When partners sell Action Pack software in violation of their licensing agreement, it can harm other partners' businesses, says Alex Pearson, president of IS Systems, a San Antonio, Texas-based solution provider.
"When I go in to see a client that has been sold an Action Pack, they're not interested in purchasing the legal licenses due to the fact that the price is so much more than the Action Pack," said Pearson.
"When I point out to the client that they're in violation of Microsoft's licensing agreement on the Action Pack, they usually state that they will take their chances on it," added Pearson.
Eric Ligman, senior manager for small business community engagement at Microsoft, acknowledged the problem in a post earlier this month on the Microsoft Small Business Community blog.
"Unfortunately, there are some out there who purchase and use the Action Pack subscription in direct violation of the terms of the agreement," Ligman wrote.
Beginning in November 2007, Microsoft will require all Action Pack subscribers to take an online training course from the Partner Learning Center and score at least 70 percent on an associated assessment. Partners will also have to re-take the assessment every two years in order to remain eligible for the Action Pack subscription.
"The new requirements will be put in place to help eliminate those who should not be using the Action Pack Subscription from being able to receive it," Microsoft said.
Tim Ulmen, principal at Midwest IT Solutions Group, Wichita, Kan., expects the new assessment requirements and specialized toolkits to be well received by Microsoft partners.
"Microsoft is trying to better establish Registered Partners 'core' competencies and encourage better product knowledge through this qualification policy change," Ulmen said.