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Microsoft Acquires Asset-Tracking Vendor

Even as one of the AssetMetrix co-founders questioned the deal, Microsoft said it will integrate the technology into Systems Management Server 2003.

Microsoft on Wednesday acquired AssetMetrix, a Canadian hardware and software asset management vendor noted for its detailed reports on workplace penetration of various versions of Windows.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed by either Microsoft or AssetMetrix. The acquisition will be subject to Canadian court approval.

The AssetMetrix technology, said Microsoft, will be integrated into the Redmond, Wash.-based developer's existing tools, including Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003.

"Microsoft intends to release the software library [of identified titles], along with the application signatures and additional reports, to existing SMS customers at no charge before the end of the year," said Microsoft in a statement.

"It was more of a technology purchase than of the company's business," said Steve O'Halloran, one of the co-founders of AssetMetrix.

"I don't think that Microsoft will continue with the AssetMetrix business. I think a lot of companies would be leery of their [hardware and software] inventory data being held in a Microsoft-owned data structure," O'Halloran added.

O'Halloran left AssetMetrix shortly before the Microsoft acquisition was announced, over business plan disagreements with the company's managers. He said Wednesday that his departure was independent of the talks with Microsoft that led to the purchase. O'Halloran still holds what he called a "large stake" in AssetMetrix.

"On one hand, I'm happy about the acquisition," he said, "but in another way, I'm sad. It's unfortunate that the IT community has lost a sentinel, a watchdog, that could report on how hardware and software are used.

"I'd be surprised if Microsoft maintained that transparency."

In the past AssetMetrix has rebutted Microsoft's claims that newer operating systems were widely used, and that older versions of Windows were no longer in play.

A 2005 report, for instance, noted that nearly half of enterprises still ran Windows 2000. The report was based on data from AssetMetrix's research lab, which O'Halloran ran.

"We were also a factor in Microsoft extending Windows 98 support," O'Halloran said, referring to a 2003 report that said Windows 98 users faced serious security risks even as support was to be terminated. Later, Microsoft extended Windows 98 support for about two-and-a-half years. It will now end June 30 of this year.

Microsoft didn't buy AssetMetrix to shut up a critic, said O'Halloran, but it was "an accidental advantage."

"It was really the SMS crew that saw the value of the technology."

O'Halloran will use his share of the AssetMetrix sale to fund a new venture that will use a "more evolved model to manage assets from different dimensions, including security and liability and licensing."

Currently, he heads a consulting firm called AssetArchitect.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for more information about its plans for the AssetMetrix technology, its research, and its personnel.

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