Microsoft's revised software licensing model has provoked a mixed reaction from users.
The changes will see no reduction in charges but additional benefits that Microsoft hopes will win over corporate customers angered by the introduction of its new licensing scheme last year.
The licensing scheme offered regular software upgrades to companies that signed up. But its high charges have been cited by major Microsoft customers as a factor in moves to Linux and other open source systems.
The new terms give licencees access to free copies of Office for home users, discounts for employees buying Microsoft software, and free daytime server support (with round the clock support remaining an additional service).
Companies with more than 1,500 users will get limited access to Microsoft source code and the company will be extending its support periods for discontinued software.
But user groups have been less than impressed, claiming the changes are little more than tinkering at the edges while leaving the central problem of upgrade cycles untouched.
"Getting upgrades free won't automatically win IT managers over," said David Roberts, chief executive of the Corporate IT Forum (TIF).
"Corporates don't want frequent upgrade cycles. The cost of implementing the upgrade is often several times the cost of the upgrade software."
Typically, Microsoft works on a two- or three-year upgrade cycle for applications and operating systems. But cuts in technology spending mean many corporates are shifting to four-year upgrade cycles or longer.
"Microsoft has come in for a lot of criticism for the frequency of their upgrade cycles but they are not alone in worrying IT managers; this problem affects the whole software industry," added Roberts
However, Gartner was more positive. "Microsoft's move should help pacify disaffected customers," said Gartner analyst Alvin Park in a report on the new terms and conditions.
"Microsoft competitors charge less for their software maintenance programs (figured as a percentage of licensing costs) and, until now, included more value.
"Enterprises initially rejecting Software Assurance [SA] should carefully re-evaluate the value proposition of SA in light of these value-added elements."
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