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4/26/2006
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Microsoft Mulls Software Asset Management Product, Service Mix

A Microsoft manager says the company is weighing the logistics and legalities involved in productizing the AssetMetrix tool, acquired with its AssetMetrix purchase this week. An online service is likely.

Microsoft plans to continue running the service of its latest acquisition, AssetMetrix, for the next six to nine months as it mulls product and service options for its new software asset management (SAM) offering.

Felicity McGourty, director of product management and marketing for Microsoft's Windows and Enterprise Management Division, said the company is exploring the logistics and legalities involved in productizing the AssetMetrix SAM tool. However, an online service is likely, she said.

"The online service is a potential [offering] if we continue it as a software service, but that has not been determined yet," McGourty said.

Microsoft will be assessing the SAM market need over the next few months, but the prospects for a joint product and subscription service look good, according to McGourty. "There seems to be good demand," she said. "This is one [offering] that could qualify for that model."

McGourty acknowledged concerns about customer data being handed over to Microsoft but said the software giant won't use it to invade corporate networks and check on customer compliance.

"We don't use it to police. Customers can use it to check compliance and do their own reporting,” McGourty said, adding that Microsoft is looking into privacy policies that could affect curent customers and partners. "We've got to figure that out from a legal perspective."

Microsoft said Wednesday it plans to integrate AssetMetrix's SAM capabilities into its rebranded System Center Configuration Manager 2007, formerly System Management Server (SMS). The Redmond, Wash.-based company also plans to hand over AssetMetrix's catalog of 100,000 to 300,000 assets to all current SMS customers--even to those without Software Assurance, McGourty said.

Steve O'Halloran, co-founder of AssetMetrix and a former company executive, said although there could be ramifications for customers and partners, he thinks Microsoft is more interested in the technology than the customer data.

"I'm not sure if Microsoft will operate it as software as a service. But over the five years I was involved with [AssetMetrix], there were customers who said, 'No way would their inventory be held by a third party while others had no issue with it,’ " O'Halloran said. "Customers would ask us, ‘What are you going to do with our data? Are you giving it away to Microsoft?’ I guess we did--in a way."

AssetMetrix co-founder Ross Norrie said the service has as many as 10,000 customers but 300 to 400 corporate subscribers, who should not worry about their data.

"I can't say what the obligation is between Microsoft and [AssetMetrix] customers. I've been a Microsoft employee for four hours," Norrie said. "But there are privacy policies in place between customers and AssetMetrix, and they will be upheld."

Current channel partners, including large-account resellers (LARs) will continue to resell the service and provide consulting, yet those with asset management tools will be impacted by the acquisition, Norrie added.

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