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Ask Microsoft: Simplifying software licenses

Microsoft licensing executive Sunny Jensen Charlebois answers users' questions about the complexity of the company's software licensing program.

On an occasional basis, Microsoft executives answer your questions through's "Ask Microsoft …" These questions were answered by the software maker's Worldwide Licensing and Pricing Group.

Why is Microsoft's licensing so hard to understand? Even the MS techies do not understand it and always defer the question to someone else when asked. Specifically, licensing for SQL Server and all the nuances between the desktop editions, standard edition, enterprise edition, per processor, per server, per connection, etc. is a real headache. -- Mike Byrd, database architect

Reducing the complexity customers face with their licensing programs is a long-term focus for us. We place a priority on connecting with and learning from our customers, and are committed to providing flexible and logical licensing programs that help them achieve their IT goals and maximize their ROI.

As a result of direct customer feedback, we've made several improvements over the past year to make the licensing and managing of software assets less complex. We continually look at ways tools, online resources and program changes can meet our end goal of easing customer pain points within this area. We will continue to gather and listen to feedback from our customers and evaluate changes and enhancements that help them meet the needs of the changing technology environments. A few of the specific enhancements and tools we have made based on customer feedback and to help reduce complexity include:

  • Server changes: Our customers told us that they don't like paying for processor licenses that they do not use. In 2003, we changed the way we license some of our server application products (Application Center, BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Host Integration Server, Internet Security and Acceleration Server and SQL Server when licensed in the per processor mode) when licensed in the per-processor mode and used with partitions.

  • MVLS: The Microsoft Volume Licensing Services site is an online resource to help our customer manage their Microsoft licensing agreements and access their order information and purchase history. From this site, customers can view their licensing information easily and in one place, including details about their volume license agreements, license orders, and volume license product keys. They can also find answers to questions and download software. The Web site is

  • MSIA: Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer is a tool that scans and analyzes the inventory of Microsoft products installed on end-user machines. The results of the scan are generated in the form of reports in three formats: HTML (default), Microsoft Excel and text. The results of the scan performed by MSIA are completely confidential and not sent to Microsoft. The MSIA is available at

  • Product Licensing Web (PL Web): Launched this summer, PL Web is an online resource that includes the product list and product use rights documents. Customers can access the licensing terms, conditions and supplemental information relevant to the use of products that are licensed through Microsoft volume licensing programs in once place. PL Web is available at
-- Sunny Jensen Charlebois, product manager, Microsoft Worldwide Licensing and Pricing Group

What is the pricing structure/formula for new products, upgrades and SMB/corporate/enterprise licensing? -- Lazhar Bourennani

Prices will vary by each customer, depending on their license type and the software purchased. Microsoft does not share its volume licensing pricing for this reason. Customers should select software based on its merits, and not based simply on its development and licensing model. All of our software products carry benefits and costs. -- Sunny Jensen Charlebois, product manager, Microsoft Worldwide Licensing and Pricing Group

Why is pricing for Microsoft products so expensive in Australia and New Zealand, even allowing for exchange rates? -- Barry Hall

Currently, pricing within Microsoft's volume licensing is done on a global basis with some temporary regional differentiations resulting from promotions. OEM and retail pricing is done on a local basis. Microsoft continually looks at ways to address the unique needs of various countries on a regional level and periodically reviews product pricing while taking into account the needs of global customers and balancing the requirements for compliance with regulatory guidelines. We know that our customers and partners want us to have predictability, and one element of this is a predictable price for licensing Microsoft products. Therefore, changes to any regional pricing are done very rarely. -- Sunny Jensen Charlebois, product manager, Microsoft Worldwide Licensing and Pricing Group

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