The Silence of the Users

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2003-01-20 Print this article Print

Fear of losing buyers' goodwill might force Microsoft to ease its licensing policies.

Now that the Software Assurance cattle drive is in full swing, most Microsoft customers have been able to make a choice whether to join the herd in signing up for Software Assurance or to remain aloof. Its not that complicated a decision. If you dont upgrade that often—say, only every four years—then youre better off taking a pass on SA; otherwise, into the corral you go.

The choice for users is not whether to go with Microsoft, just in the way they will go. If there were ever proof of Microsofts monopoly, the SA sign-up process is it. There is virtually no credible threat—on the desktop, anyway—that a user could decline to sign and, instead, shop around.

Whats a savvy user to do for a bit of leverage?

Well, you might try putting goodwill on the bargaining table.

It may not be much, but with Linux at the doorstep and Apple resurgent, Microsoft execs increasingly recognize the desirability of users who dont hate them at the end of the day. Push back a bit, and you might get a pleasant surprise.

That was one CIOs experience. He did a bit of kicking, saying that Microsofts licensing policy might be fair but only if the software delivered the value that Microsoft promised. In too many cases, the products either did not work as advertised or required the expertise of consultants to get them to do the users bidding. Then a funny thing happened. Microsoft listened. The company agreed to dispatch assistance to help get the products working as theyre supposed to. Only then did the customer sign on the dotted line. In another instance of response to push-back, Microsoft plans to offer its Open Value licensing plan in the United States in March. It lets customers spread license payments out over three years.

Goodwill having been bruised considerably by the initial highhandedness of SA, Microsoft is trying damage control. It is listening, but you still may have to scream a bit.

Have you been able to exact concessions? Let me know at

Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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