The Silence of the Users

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