Microsoft has admitted that licensing changes planned for its .Net Server 2003 may not be good news for businesses yet to sign up to its controversial Software Assurance (SA) scheme.
The new terms for Windows .Net Server 2003 will allow firms to buy licences on a 'per user' or 'per device' basis. This is in addition to the existing 'per device' options for every computer or device accessing the server.
But those firms who have yet to sign up to Microsoft's SA model will be at a disadvantage.
Companies upgrading to the .Net Server 2003 Terminal Server will need a client access licence (CAL) to cover all client devices, irrespective of which Windows client version is used.
Companies already using Windows XP Professional, or have the right to use it having signed up to SA, will automatically get a Windows .Net Server 2003 Terminal Server CAL.
Those that have not will be stung by an additional cost to upgrade to .Net Server.
This is "probably not good news" for those not covered by SA, said Jon Clarke, Microsoft UK's licensing manager for small businesses.
No exact number of UK firms yet to sign up to SA is available, but indications are that many opted out of the scheme. Research from analysts Yankee Group suggests that up to two-thirds of Microsoft's customers did not sign up to Licensing 6.
Initial findings from research currently underway at market watchers Ovum showed that "quite a lot" of UK customers had not signed up to Microsoft's SA, said Graham Titterington, a senior analyst with the organisation.
"Microsoft has introduced incentives for firms to upgrade their software frequently. But many UK firms prefer longer upgrade cycles," he said.
By choosing to opt out of SA, firms are faced with buying new licences when they decide to upgrade their software. Previously, they received a discount for these volume purchases.
But Microsoft is hoping that users yet to sign up to SA will be attracted by the 'per user' and 'per device' model.
Call centres, where employees access shared servers, would find the 'per device' option attractive, said Clarke.
Where firms had mobile employees using a number of devices such as PDAs, laptops and desktops, however, the 'per user' option would be beneficial, he added.
The changes will cause businesses with upgrade plans to examine which model suits them best, which Clarke admitted could cause a short-term administrative burden.
"But the benefits in being able to choose the model best suited to an individual firm's needs should outweigh this," he said.
Microsoft would be working with its channel partners in the months prior to its release to ensure they understood - and could help their customers understand - the changes, Clarke added.
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