Microsoft has added a range of support and training benefits to its controversial Software Assurance (SA) licensing package in an attempt to ease customers' anger at the way the scheme was introduced.
The benefits, which include a home software licence for employees and are available to existing and new SA customers, have been broadly welcomed.
Microsoft's UK licensing manager, Mark Buckley, said SA would help customers get more from their investment in Microsoft technology, giving them increased assistance and support, training and tools.
"Employees also benefit as they get better purchasing deals and can use the software covered under the agreement on their home PCs at no charge.
"Every customer who has an SA agreement will receive these benefits automatically from 1 September."
David Roberts, chief executive of the Corporate IT Forum, said the new benefits show that Microsoft is listening to customers.
"To me this is good; it marks the first significant step forward from Microsoft, being responsive and making sure that the things it does are in keeping with customer requirements," he said.
But the real test of whether the additional benefits have worked will come in July 2004, when existing old-style Upgrade Advantage (UA) packages run out.
Dave Simpson, director of sales and marketing at Microsoft reseller Softcat, said around half of those that have signed an SA licence already have reacted positively to the new benefits.
One-quarter of them said they were not bothered, although a quarter said they still felt "mildly negative" about the licensing.
"We've started telling our customers about the added value and we've had a good reaction and closed some substantial business on the back of it, with customers attracted by the home usage option for home working," Simpson added.
New features include:
- Vouchers for Microsoft training courses, and e-learning packages
- Employees receive a licensed copy of select Microsoft Office desktop programs for home use
- TechNet Online Concierge Chat, giving IT staff web-based sessions with Microsoft advisors to troubleshoot problems
- Corporate error reporting, to improve the monitoring of error information
- Microsoft Windows Pre-installation Environment, to automatically deploy updates
- Access to Microsoft's Windows source code for internal development and support for customers with 1,500 or more licensed desktops.
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