ZDNet's Ed Bott, who first reported the decision, noted that while TechNet subscriptions are a relative bargain for IT pros, they're an increasing pain for Microsoft. Because the "evaluation-only" license isn't really enforceable, a TechNet subscription was essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet. It was also a juicy target for software pirates who resold the product keys on the black market.
To be clear, Microsoft isn't shutting down the TechNet site, which includes a trove of support documentation and other resources for IT pros, just the TechNet subscription service. Instead, it's steering customers toward its free, short-term trials of Windows and other products. For example, Microsoft currently offers a free 90-day evaluation copy of Windows 8 Enterprise. The company is also pushing its Virtual Labs, which are essentially 90-minute crash-course environments for Windows, Azure, SQL Server and other Microsoft products. The company will continue to offer its higher-priced Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscriptions, too.
The move comes at a crucial time for Microsoft: when it needs all of the friends and evangelists it can find to drum up excitement for Windows 8 and, soon, Windows 8.1. A lively discussion over at Spiceworks indicated that IT pros are, not surprisingly, unhappy about the news.
"Even if they do manage to break even on the revenue end of the deal from additional MSDN subscriptions, that fails to recognize the long-term cost of a lot of hacked-off IT folks," wrote stan8331. "Thumbing your nose at your own paying customers is rarely a wise business strategy, but when those individual customers will also be heavily involved in advocating for or against your products as part of their job in the future, it moves into the realm of self-destruction."
"Way to step on it again Microsoft. TechNet was one of the best tools in my bag for all kinds of reasons," wrote Buz. "Not real smart to piss off the IT community who push your product."
There was, however, a "too good to be true" element to TechNet subscriptions; they essentially operated on an honor code among subscribers. In killing TechNet subscriptions, Microsoft is stopping a source of cheap -- albeit legally and ethically vague -- software licenses across its product family.
Another Spiceworks discussion participant wondered aloud "if companies out there are using Technet subscriptions illegally such as in a live environment." In reply, Scott Alan Miller wrote: "I don't think there is much to wonder about. Tons of companies do that."