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3/31/2006
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Gartner: Microsoft Delay Could Affect Licensing Rights

Gartner Friday cautioned Microsoft Software Assurance volume license customers to check their contract expiration dates, which could be affected by the delay of Office 2007.

Microsoft Software Assurance volume license customers need to check contract expiration dates as they wait for 2007 Microsoft Office System, warned analyst firm Gartner Inc. Friday.

Office 2003 became available to volume licensing customers in September 2003. Most contracts for Microsoft Office 2003 are for three years, one month shy of Microsoft Corp.'s new published ship dates for 2007 Microsoft Office System, according to Gartner.

On March 23, Microsoft said it would make 2007 Microsoft Office available to volume license customers in October and to retail and consumer customers in January 2007, after reporting it would delay the release of Windows Vista operating system.

Microsoft said the retail and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) product will coincide with the retail and OEM availability of Windows Vista in January 2007.

The one-month lag could mean bad news for companies that didn't purchase Microsoft's Software Assurance maintenance for Office products in three-year Select Agreements or Enterprise Agreements, Gartner said.

Although this is the first time the Office release cycle has exceeded three years, Gartner said it raises concerns among some users who assumed they would receive rights to a new version during the term of their agreement, based on previous Office release cycles.

Customers who purchased SA on Office under a three-year Open Value Agreement, Select Agreement or Enterprise Agreements will not get the rights to Office 2007 if the agreement expires in August 2006 or earlier, Gartner said.

Gartner recommendations:

--Volume licensing customers who renewed SA in September 2003: Lobby Microsoft to make an exception and award you the upgrade to Office 2007.

--Volume licensing customers who plan on purchasing Office licenses without SA: Consider delaying purchases until Office 2007 is available and use downgrade rights if you intended to acquire Office 2003.

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