Microsoft Adds Flexibility To Licensing Initiatives

The two new options could help Microsoft battle Linux and may convince more small-business, midmarket and enterprise customers to license its software and sign Software Assurance maintenance contracts.

Later this month, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft is expected to announce deployment coupons as the latest addition to its Software Assurance software maintenance program. The coupons are aimed at enticing customers to deploy the software after buying it, a move that will likely serve up more business for partners.

“SA deployment will be a huge benefit to us, and a major enhancement to our clients& relationship with Microsoft. They help prevent software purchases from becoming shelfware, and customers get a quicker return on their investment,” said Matt Scherocman, director of Cincinnati-based PCMS IT Advisor Group, who added that such vouchers also serve as a “foot in the door” for prospective clients.

“Frequently, clients will try to install everything themselves. This gives us the ability, for free, to help them in their planning. And it lets the customer use our expertise to avoid issues and see where our deployment services can save them downtime and headaches.”

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Microsoft also said it is enhancing its Open Value licensing program for midsize companies. The program will give midsize customers simplified license tracking, greater control over the software upgrade cycle and improved management of software costs.

“We are trying to be aggressive in permitting people to use our software at lower cost. Just as important, [we want] to simplify the license acquisition process with simpler contracts and better tools to analyze license needs,” said John Lauer, vice president for Microsoft&s Worldwide Midmarket, Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partner Group.

Sources also say that Microsoft is considering some innovative licensing approaches as it tries to transform its Dynamics and Office lines from point products into platforms.

For example, Microsoft is considering the possibility of licensing its Great Plains, Axapta, Navision and CRM business applications—the collectively renamed Dynamics line—with Microsoft server products as part of Enterprise Agreements, sources said.

The vendor also is hashing out server and client combinations for its planned Office Server family, an array of server-based technologies that will be accessed by Office client apps.

As an example, Microsoft is planning a server-resident Excel engine that will accept intensive Excel tasks offloaded from the desktop, said a source familiar with the plans. The company also has explored a discrete Excel server as well as some kind of Excel/SharePoint server amalgam. An overall Office Server could end up being “one SKU with a bunch of license levels,” said another source close to Microsoft.