Microsoft's portly licensing guide going on a diet

The software company is promising a more user-friendly Product Use Rights document as part of an ongoing revamp of its licensing program.

One of the most irksome problems for IT executives trying to understand Microsoft's Licensing 6.0 program is the amount of time and effort it takes to pore over documentation associated with product use rights.

And even more

[Microsoft's Product Use Rights] is an important legal document that customers need to pay attention to.


Paul DeGroot, analyst,

Directions on Microsoft

,
annoying is the seemingly endless number of licensing models that exist across Microsoft's product spectrum.

Hopefully, that problem disappears as of July 1, when Microsoft's Product Use Rights (PUR) guide -- which now stands at a mind-numbing 100+ pages -- will be whittled down to half that size. Also in the revised version, the software company plans to drop the legalese language and offers color-coded organization to the document that groups products according to how they are licensed, not simply by name.

The PUR redesign is part of Microsoft's longstanding attempts to simplify its licensing procedures, according to Sunny Charlebois, product manager for worldwide licensing and pricing at Microsoft.

PUR grew as number of products increased

Customers want to understand how products are licensed, and the PUR document is where they get that information. The document is an official attachment to the customer's End User Licensing Agreement (EULA). Though most customers rarely see the EULA, many of them are familiar with the PUR document.

In the past several years, Microsoft has increased the number of products it lists, from roughly 40 to 70. Each successive version increased in size accordingly, thereby creating an unwieldy and complex resource, Charlebois said.

To fix this problem, Microsoft has grouped each product into one of nine, color-coded licensing categories, as opposed to listing individual products separately. Each category is determined by how the product is licensed. For example, SQL Server and BizTalk Server are licensed per processor, but a server operating system is licensed per installation. As a result, the new document will be a relatively slim 44 pages.

Every product team had a PUR

In the past, Microsoft's product teams developed their own PURs as they developed their products. This is how they got out of hand, said Alvin Park, a research director at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

Now, instead of having teams with their own PURs, all products must conform to one of the nine new categories. There is some leeway for exceptions, but Park said he expects that Microsoft will hold those to a minimum, and over time, possibly eliminate them completely.

The nine categories, and some examples, are:

  • Specialty servers (Virtual Server)
  • Per-processor servers (SQL Server, BizTalk Server)
  • Management servers (SMS and MOM)
  • Servers per client access license (Exchange Server, Office Live Communications Server)
  • Server operating systems (Windows Server 2003
  • Desktop operating systems (Windows XP)
  • Desktop applications (Office, Visio)
  • Developer tools (Visual Studio)
  • Online services (MapPoint, Office Live Meeting)
  • In addition to the printed document, customers can review the PUR on Microsoft's product licensing Web site and search for the licensing rights to any product.

    Related links

    Microsoft's licensing takes a step in a new direction

     

    Consultant offers checklist for Microsoft license negotiations

    Microsoft said it is continuing the process of simplifying its licensing and that reworking the Product Use Rights guide is part of an effort to create a framework on how it explains its policies, according to Charlebois. She said Microsoft will be discussing additional changes to its licensing program in July at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

    Feeling its customers' pain

    Gartner's Park and other industry experts said the changes that Microsoft is making to its documentation show that it recognizes the complexity of its licensing program and documentation.

    "This is an important legal document that customers need to pay attention to," said Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm. "I'm sure there is no customer [who is] on top of what the PUR has to say, except one with a lot of lawyers. Making it simpler and shorter is a good thing."

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