Microsoft's Potential EA For SMB Channel Still Up In The Air

Some Had Hoped For Fusion Announcement

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Microsoft continues to mull a plan to craft an Enterprise Agreement license for solution providers to sell into the Small Medium Business (SMB) market, but it's still a way off, Microsoft channel executives noted at Fusion 2002.

"We are on a path to figure it out," said Allison L. Watson, noting that the EA-like license would be available to the broad-based channel. "Customers want it so they can do multi-year payments."

The software giant is mulling the policy change in light of concerns expressed by some SMB channel players that Enterprise Software Agents (ESA), formerly known as Large Account Resellers (LARs), and midmarket resellers, are moving down the food chain and into their accounts.

As part of Microsoft's decision to take control of license negotiations, pricing and billing of enterprise customers away from large account resellers, it dropped the requirement for EAs to 250 PCs from 500 PCs to enable authorized ESAs to sell licensing to midmarket companies. Some partners in the SMB space cried foul, claiming that resellers were moving into their traditional market territory.

Watson said Microsoft is actively considering creating an Enterprise Agreement like plan that allows small to medium-sized companies with fewer than 250 desktops to spread their licensing payments out over multiple years, but hinted that it won't be announced anytime in the near future. Sources in the solution provider channel said in April that Microsoft might announce such a new license plan at Fusion this year.

During a meeting with CRN at corporate headquarters last month, Worldwide Licensing Product Manager Rebecca LaBrunerie confirmed that Microsoft is considering brining some of the features of the Enterprise Agreement to the SMB space but would not elaborate further. She said the software giant is running some pilot tests in the U.S, to bring such a capability to smaller companies.

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