Microsoft Tests Partners' Licensing Knowledge

The Microsoft Licensing Quiz includes background training materials and guides partners through a series of multiple choice questions related to common misconceptions about Microsoft's volume licensing agreements and what they cover.

For example, one question states that all of Microsoft's volume licensing agreements cover Windows desktop upgrades only, and that a "underlying qualified full" Windows desktop license must be in place before the customer can exercise the volume licensing agreement to upgrade the Windows license.

Other questions highlight the fact that it's cheaper to buy a full Windows license pre-installed on an OEM PC than it is to buy it through retail, and that Microsoft doesn't allow OEM licenses to be transferred to other PCs, even if the original PC has been retired.

While the quiz shows that Microsoft is aware that some of its partners are confused over its licensing terms, David Schrag, president of Schrag Inc., a Brighton, Mass.-based Small Business Specialist, doesn't see it as a move on the vendor's part to simplify its licensing approach.

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"For years, Microsoft's response to questions and complaints about complex or illogical licensing terms has been to create more educational materials explaining the status quo, rather than to make any real moves toward simplification," said Schrag.

But Steven Mulka, a partner with SIS, a Duluth, Ga.-based solution provider and Microsoft Gold partner, expects the quiz to succeed in getting more partners to understand the nuances between the different volume licensing programs.

However, the complexity of Microsoft's volume licensing sometimes requires partners to consult the distributor or large account resellers who sell the agreements, and that can slow the sales process, according to Mulka.

"The issue is the amount of time needed to quote to the customer, and the amount of time it takes to put together pricing in the various licensing schemes," said Mulka

"Once I understood Open Value and Open Business, though, it was easier to go out and get pricing. You can be presented with 22 different SKUs, all with different descriptions, that's where the difficulty comes in," Mulka added.

Microsoft sells a significant amount of software licenses through its channel partners, and the quiz is a clever way drive license sales, says Scott Rosenberg, CEO of Miro Consulting, a Fords, N.J.-based firm that specializes in licensing issues. "On one hand, this softens the image of licensing, but at the same time, it exposes the knowledge you don't have, and leads to education," he said.

"It's not just a Microsoft thing: Everybody in the software world is trying to assert their software compliance rights, because that's where the money is," said Rosenberg.

The Microsoft Licensing Quiz is open only to the vendor's U.S. partners and is slated to run until June 27.