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No SA 'Make Goods' From Microsoft, Says Gartner

The research company urges Microsoft to accommodate corporations that bought into its Software Assurance program with the expectation of being able to upgrade free to the next version of Office and Windows. For many clients, those versions are expected to ship after their SA plans expire.
Microsoft will not offer "make goods" to companies that won't see new versions of Windows or Office before their long-term licensing plans expire, a Gartner analyst said Friday.

Press reports last week indicated that Microsoft might offer rebates to enterprises that had signed up for the Redmond, Wash. developer's Software Assurance plan, but which weren't going to see updates to Windows or Office. Nope, Gartner analyst Michael Silver wrote Friday on the research company's blog.

"[Microsoft] says it is discussing the situation on a one-to-one basis, but thus far, our reports indicate that Microsoft will not discuss the issue unless it is in the context of a new renewal," wrote Silver.

"Understandably, companies want satisfaction before they even think about renewing [SA]," he continued. "Does this fall into the realm of 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me'?"

Microsoft has denied that corporate customers who bought into the three-year Software Assurance plan in September, October, and November 2003, will get any special consideration.

Under the Software Assurance licensing program, customers pay a set fee each year of a two- or three-year period; in exchange, they're allowed all upgrades to the covered product issued during that span.

Gartner's Silver noted that the situation is a new problem because while Microsoft doesn't specifically promise to deliver an update during a SA term, it's never gone more than three years between upgrades of Office. "Most customers made very clear to their sales people that there was no financial benefit for them to sign the agreement unless they were going to get a new version of Office," said Silver.

Silver urged Microsoft to fix SA "so new versions are not needed to attain ROI" for the expense, or alternately, fix the product development cycle to guarantee that new versions will be cranked out regularly.

Office 2007, the first update since Office 2003 was released in October 2003, was recently delayed by Microsoft. In June, the company said the release would be pushed back to a date "before the end of the year" for corporations, a change from the earlier October deadline it had given out.

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