Expert Says New Microsoft Volume Licensing Program Could Be 'Major Departure'

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For years, Microsoft licensing programs have confounded even the tiny group of Earth's residents who've made a career out of studying and explaining them to Microsoft customers.

Now Microsoft says it's committed to making its volume licensing simpler for customers to buy and manage.

According to published reports, Microsoft began rolling out a new volume licensing program -- called the Microsoft Products & Services Agreement (MPSA) -- this week in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Canada.

[Related: Expert: New Microsoft Enterprise Licensing Program Could Raise Costs]

A Microsoft spokesperson contacted by CRN declined to provide additional information about the MPSA.

But in a carefully worded Nov. 15 blog post, Richard Smith, Microsoft's general manager of worldwide licensing and pricing, said Microsoft has been "listening" to customers' licensing concerns.

"The new agreement supports customers' choice from the entire array of Microsoft on-premises software, online services, and hybrid solutions to suit business needs and optimize technology spending," Smith said in the blog post. "This results in one signing event, fewer terms and conditions, and greatly reduced number of steps required to complete a volume licensing agreement."

Here's what's happening: Instead of having different licensing agreements for small, medium and large customers, Microsoft is pitching the MPSA as a single agreement that covers everyone and all of its products.

Paul DeGroot, principal analyst at Pica Communications, a Camano Island, Wash.-based Microsoft licensing consultancy, told CRN this would be a welcome development. "This looks like a major departure and it is something that Microsoft has been hinting at for a long time," DeGroot said in an email.

That said, DeGroot said Microsoft hasn't yet made available a copy of the MPSA agreement. Until that happens, he's advising customers to be cautious about signing one.

"The big question is whether this agreement replaces anything or whether it's just one more agreement," DeGroot told CRN. "Microsoft has struggled to find something that would encapsulate on-prem and cloud licensing efficiently, and this is another stab at it."

Vlad Mazek, CEO of Own Web Now, an Orlando, Fla.-based Microsoft partner focused on small and medium-sized businesses, isn't waiting with bated breath for details of the MPSA to emerge.

That's because Microsoft licensing is no longer a lucrative business, Mazek said. "Let me put it to you this way -- I do not know a single person that resells Microsoft licensing anymore in SMB," Mazek said in an email. "Most have their clients rolled out with Microsoft directly for Open or Software Assurance, and some are doing Office 365 for the Office suite."

NEXT: Microsoft Partners Optimistic About Licensing Changes

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