Microsoft licensing puts pressure on customers

Microsoft’s corporate customers with flexible workforces are being pushed towards the software company’s Software Assurance programme with new licensing agreements, according to analysts with research firm Forrester.

Microsoft licensing puts pressure on customers

The news comes after the analyst firm studied recent pricing and licensing changes and found several that could “have profound implications for enterprise IT departments”, including changes to the rules on remote access and virtualised desktops.

The per-device model is looking increasingly obsolete because people have several different devices

“The trend is taking software away from the PC and into the data centre, whether that is with thin clients, smartphones or other mobile devices,” principal analyst Duncan Jones told PC Pro. “And this is a challenge because most licensing is still based on the PC, not on the user.”

“Microsoft is aware of this and it appears to be a clear goal to push customers towards signing up for Software Assurance (SA), where they pay annually, rather than just every three or four years when they upgrade,” he added.

Decisions concerning SA and Windows, Forrster believes, are no longer about just upgrade rights and other SA benefits – there is a clear impact on overall client strategy.

“The thing for people to consider is ‘are we paying for the number of users or the number of devices?’ The per-device model is looking increasingly obsolete because people have several different devices and they don’t want to pay for every device,” said Jones

“The way to avoid that might be to sign up for SA, which provides roaming user rights,” he added.

While Microsoft already has user-based licensing for its hosted Exchange service, Business Productivity Online Suite, Forrester said it was “disappointing that a similar construct for Web-only use of Office doesn’t exist. In the meantime, buyers may reluctantly decide to retain SA on selected Office licenses to get roaming use rights.”

However, smart IT managers might be able to avoid buying SA packages by bending the licensing rulebook.

“Evaluate alternatives that don’t involve buying additional licenses or SA, including using the licensed PC as a server using solutions like GoToMyPC, pcAnywhere, or Office Web Apps,” Forrester said in its Five New Microsoft Licensing Twists That Every IT Buyer Should Know report.

“These options may be sufficiently credible to provide some negotiation leverage, even if you don’t actually decide to employ any of them.”

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