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Microsoft Simplifies Volume Licensing

Changes include doing away with signature pages spread throughout the agreements and replacing them with a single page signature form that's all a customer needs to sign.

For years, businesses buying Microsoft software have complained of the company's complex licensing schemes. It seems Microsoft hears the cries, as the company last week announced a series of changes to its volume licensing agreements that it's made since the end of May.

"Over the last several years, we have heard from customers to keep simplifying," said Stacie Sloane, marketing director for Microsoft's Worldwide Licensing Group. "Licensing has not always been the easiest thing to understand."

Microsoft license agreements used to eat up the pages. The company said it's cutting the agreement length by up to half for some programs for Enterprise Agreements, Select Licenses and Open Licenses. One of the ways Microsoft is cutting back on paper is doing away with signature pages spread throughout the agreements and replacing them with a single page signature form that's all a customer needs to sign.

Licensing agreements have also gotten a bad rap for being tough to navigate. In response, Microsoft has implemented consistent language and structure to all Volume Licensing agreements. The company is also including a table of contents and summary titles for each agreement.

Microsoft's also introducing the Volume Licensing Service Center, a Web site that will find software available to companies under their agreements, allow companies to download that software and create a summary of all the Microsoft licenses the company has.

"You want to buy software, you want to know what you have, and you want to assess what you have," Sloane said.

Later this year, Microsoft intends to significantly reduce the number of price points and SKUs of the software it sells from a staggering 8 million price points today across Microsoft products. Multiple languages may be the biggest culprit in keeping these numbers up, and price often varies with the language.

One of the biggest changes in the fall will be the elimination of individual languages from the price point list, instead replacing that with the Single Language license that covers any one language. That'll help decrease the number of Select License price points and SKUs, for example, by 51% and 72% respectively, according to Microsoft. That won't decrease prices -- there's no real change in pricing -- but it should make for less head scratchers about how much to pay.

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