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7/1/2008
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Microsoft Revises Volume Licensing Agreements

The software vendor is continuing down a path that's cut the total number of licensing programs from more than 100 last year to 26.

Microsoft unveiled a new volume licensing plan for midsize and large businesses Tuesday, aiming to simplify licensing for larger companies, especially those with multiple sites, autonomous business units, or decentralized IT management.

The new program, known as Microsoft Select Plus Volume Licensing, is a tweak of the company's Select Agreement -- some might say an upgrade, though it doesn't cost extra on its face -- that brings together volume licensing across product lines and agreements.

Select Plus, like the Select Agreement, is pay as you go, with pricing based on a point system: buy more Microsoft products, get a lower price. Select Plus allows companies to buy multiple volume packages of products under a single customer ID that covers the entire company while keeping the purchases separate. Microsoft touts it as being easier to manage than buying up a bunch of fully separate Select Agreements.

"It's generally good news for customers," Forrester senior analyst Duncan Jones said in an interview. "It's a simplification. Although there are some things to be wary of, it's generally better news for them than the existing Select Agreement or certainly the Open Agreements some companies have to use."

As a "simplification," Microsoft is continuing down a path that's cut the company's total number of licensing programs from more than a hundred last year to 26. Microsoft has long been harangued for a seemingly never-ending array of complicated buying choices and license interdependencies. Forrester recently dedicated a report to "Successfully Negotiating Microsoft Licensing Agreements."

While the new program may simplify things for large decentralized companies, it introduces new pricing headaches for those looking to buy into Software Assurance, which gives companies added support, free upgrades, and software options not covered under other agreements.

The Select Agreement was a three-year agreement wherein companies could buy into SA at any time, paying on yearly increments. However, Select Plus is a more open-ended commitment, and companies have to buy a full three years of SA. That means that when Select Plus customers buy into SA, they may face new challenges to plan around upgrade cycles.

Though Microsoft is detailing Select Plus now, it won't be available until the fall.

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