Blue chip user group The Infrastructure Forum (Tif) has called on software companies to provide clearer pricing for corporate customers.
Tif chief executive David Roberts said: "I would like to see a price list; a list of the prices that people can get and a list of the discounts available.
"For a given product mix, and so many desktops or servers, then the discount is 'n' per cent. At the moment the only price publicly quoted is the recommended retail price. What exactly is the relationship between this and the price corporates pay?
"The cloak and dagger world that IT companies live in makes every deal 'special'. What this means is that the prices organisations pay depend on the ability to negotiate. Is that fair? That seems wrong. After all, IT is only a tool for doing business."
Roberts explained that the recent arrangement between the UK government and Microsoft was a good example of a deal where no hard figures were available.
"The Office of Government Commerce announcement proves that Microsoft will move, but gives no indication of by how much," he said. "No one knows the cost in terms of a price per desktop.
"The government says it has done this great deal, presumably at prices most organisations would kill for, but we have no indication of what a good price is."
But Microsoft licensing manager Sue Page maintained that, because it sells through the channel, it can't set the price offered to end users.
"We don't own the price," she explained. "We give the distributors a price and they can do what they want with it, otherwise it is price fixing.
"Customers will go to where they get the best price or the best service, and the price might not just be based on the cost of the software."
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