Streamlining of Microsoft licensing programs is overdue

One of the under the radar happenings here at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston is the software giant streamlining its licensing models for several of its products.

Ever since Microsoft adopted licensing people have hated it. Partners, users, distributors, Microsoft employees and, to a certain extent, even competitors have a heavy dislike for Microsoft’s licensing tactics.

Microsoft’s own Web site tells the reader that “with the technical nature of server products, CAL licensing can be a complicated area.” CAL stands for client access license.

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner told a packed audience at the Houston Toyota Center about how complicated Microsoft licensing is. When he came to Microsoft from Wal-Mart, Turner asked his staff for a licensing book and was told they were several books on licensing. A month later, he had all the licensing books. This is one of the reasons why Microsoft under his watch created the Gear Up plan to streamline licensing for partners.

However, even with Gear Up and some other improvements in licensing, Turner said more needs to be done.

When you couple together complex licensing with hundreds of products you have a problem that will cost money. There are also no other real alternatives so basically, people have to suffer through it.

Some have criticized that the complexity of Microsoft’s licensing practices was by design. For example, users that wish to purchase from CDW or Insight can find Small Business Server and its single CAL, as opposed to 37 different CALs for Exchange.

Whether it was a slimy tactic or simple ineptness it is all becoming a moot point, because solution providers are spending less and less time explaining to customers licensing details, scenarios and strategies and more time actually solving customer problems.

With some of the software plus services announcements made at this conference a lot of licensing has been streamlined to a point where it is actually understandable.

One partner, Mike Lopatriello, the CEO of Luna Development of Toronto, told me that these single acts of streamlining licensing by placing products in suites and offering more online services have made his life and business a lot easier.

The simple fact that Lopatriello and his team no longer have to sell individual licenses or licenses that must correspond to other similar Microsoft products will end up saving his company time and money in staff training.

Two quick hits before I go. Microsoft Channel Chief Alison Watson made an appearance at the Canadian partner party featuring Burton Cummings.

And lastly Gail Moorehouse has left the company she put together no so long ago, Nexient. Moorehouse, a CDN top 25 newsmaker, has left for other investment opportunities. Replacing her is the CFO of the company, Donna de Winter.

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