Software Licensing Experts: Microsoft's New Volume Agreement Isn't As Short And Simple As Advertised

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Microsoft debuted a new volume licensing agreement earlier this year, touting it as a simplified -- and much shorter -- version of the software giant's existing agreements.

It's called the Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) and, according to Microsoft, it's just 8 pages long, compared to 37 pages for the Select Plus agreement it's replacing.

Microsoft said it was able to chop lots of bulk from the MPSA by using simpler language and cutting out duplication. Having a shorter agreement would make things simpler for customers to understand, Microsoft said when it rolled out the MPSA in the U.S. in July.

[Related: Microsoft Pitching New Volume Licensing Program As Customers' On-Ramp To The Cloud]

But two Microsoft licensing experts -- who've built careers around decoding the complex minutiae of Microsoft licensing -- told CRN this week the MPSA is much longer than 8 pages when other associated documents are factored into the tally.

The MPSA also includes links to webpages on the Microsoft site, which include detailed information about the agreement and can run several pages long, they said.

When these linked pages are taken into account, the actual length of the MPSA agreement is "quite close" to that of Select Plus, Tim Hegedus, senior analyst at Miro Consulting, a Woodbridge, N.J.-based firm that helps Microsoft customers with licensing matters, told CRN.

The MPSA includes a number of references and links to a document called the Licensing Manual, which is part of the contract but isn't counted in Microsoft's 8-page tally, Paul DeGroot, principal analyst at Pica Communications, a Camano Island, Wash.-based Microsoft licensing consultancy told CRN.

"The manual contains many terms that used to be agreement language. For example, many paragraphs in the licensing manual were lifted from the Select Agreement, so the Licensing Manual is really part of the agreement," said DeGroot.

"Many critical provisions have been put in the Licensing Manual, which appears to be a document that Microsoft can change at will," DeGroot said. "While Microsoft says its documentation is being simplified, and the MPSA is shorter, this is mostly a shell game."

Richard Smith, general manager of Microsoft's World Wide Licensing & Pricing (WWLP), told CRN Microsoft's 8-page count for the MPSA agreement only includes the "core terms and conditions" necessary to start buying online services.

Smith said Microsoft was careful to do an "apples-to-apples comparison" between the core terms of the MPSA agreement and those of its Select Plus and Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement (MOSA).

Microsoft "feels very good" about its claim that the core terms of the MPSA agreement amount to 8 pages, Smith said.

NEXT: Why Licensing Experts Think The MPSA Is Much Longer Than Advertised

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