Microsoft Adds Rental Option For Windows, Office

Longstanding Microsoft licensing restrictions have prevented organizations such as Internet cafes, kiosk companies, and office equipment leasing firms from renting or leasing Microsoft software to customers. As a result, many of these companies have turned to pirated versions of Windows and Office. With Rental Rights, these firms can obtain Microsoft software legally and avoid the potential disaster of a Business Software Alliance audit.

From the point of view of Microsoft solution providers, anything that helps reduce the amount of pirated software circulating in the channel is a welcome development. "This will help cut down on illegal software, and that makes our job as consultants easier," said Kevin Baylor, managing partner at Suncoast Business Technologies, Bradenton, Fla.

Last April, Microsoft introduced Rental Rights in eight countries -- Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, People's Republic of China, Russia, and Thailand -- all places where software piracy has been rampant. Microsoft has faced a quandary when it comes to fighting piracy in these regions because its efforts to enforce the rules risked angering small businesses and driving them to open source alternatives, says Paul DeGroot, an analyst with Directions On Microsoft.

The same issue exists in mature markets, where Microsoft's Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA) has been the only option for small businesses, but is too costly and complex for most to even consider. "Rental rights give Microsoft a gentler and kinder solution," DeGroot said. "They don't have to shut down a business to enforce their IP. For a modest fee, small businesses can rent out a familiar OS and productivity suite, and everything is legal."

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Microsoft VARs have no shortage of war stories about the complexity of the software giant's licensing terms, but they clearly see Rental Rights as a step on Microsoft's part to simplify things.

"We often criticize Microsoft for its overly complex software licensing, but this is the upside of that process," noted Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Gold partner. "They're constantly looking for new ways to cover licensing scenarios that people want, and this is one example."

Brad Kowerchuk, president of Bralin Technology Solutions, based in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, says Rental Rights could also make life easier for VARs that offer hardware-as-a-service (HaaS) solutions.

"HaaS is most tricky from the financing side of things -- who really 'owns' the equipment when a traditional purchase transaction did not occur?" Kowerchuk said. "Rental Rights licenses could help the service provider to retain ownership of the software that is, in essence, 'rented' to their clients under their HaaS agreements."

Rental Rights are available only to customers with Open License, Select License, and Select Plus volume licensing agreements, and they're good for the life of the duration of the underlying software agreement or the life of the PC, Eric Ligman, global partner experience lead in Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, said in a Monday blog post.