Microsoft streamlines volume licensing programs

Microsoft has streamlined its volume licensing to make it easier for customers to buy its products in bulk.

Microsoft continues to tweak its volume licensing programs to make it easier for business customers to purchase the company's software in bulk.

Last week Microsoft said it was reducing the length of three of its volume-licensing agreements between 10 percent to 50 percent, changes that affect the Enterprise Agreement, Enterprise Subscription, Select License, Open Value, Open Value Subscription and Open License volume licensing agreements. Microsoft also has made it easier for customers to navigate license information and sign up online, the company said. The changes will be implemented in the course of its fiscal year 2008, which began July 1.

Microsoft has been amending different aspects of its volume licensing programs over the last several years in an effort to make them less complicated and expensive for customers. Volume licensing is how business customers buy Microsoft products. The company also faces pressure from changing industry dynamics where products are being licensed on a subscription basis rather than through complicated, long-term licenses. Microsoft is keeping up with some of these changes by increasingly offering business software as subscription-based services, but still has a history of complex product licensing to contend with.

Specifically, Microsoft said it will reduce the number of price points and SKUs for each of its volume licensing programs, which will simplify customers' search for specific product pricing. Currently, Microsoft has more than 8 million price points worldwide, which makes it confusing for customers to navigate through them. To reduce the number of price points, individual product SKUs with the same pricing will change to one term, called "Single Language," the company said.

For example, a product such as the SQL Server database has versions for different languages. If the product is only for one language, such as English, and is priced the same as other versions for other languages, the products now will be listed as "SQL Server Single Language" rather than with each language version listed individually, Microsoft said.

According to Microsoft, just doing this reduces price points in the Select program by 51 percent and the number of product SKUs by 72 percent. In the Open Value program, price points are reduced by 50 percent and SKUs by 51 percent, and in the Open License program, prices points are reduced by 32 percent and the number of SKUs by 33 percent, the company said.

Microsoft also has made some content changes to all of its volume licensing agreements to streamline the language used in them, as well as added a table of contents and summary titles to agreements to make them easier for customers to navigate.

In addition to the changes, Microsoft also is launching a Volume Licensing Service Center online that will help customers manage their volume licenses. The service center will provide downloads to software that customers are eligible to receive under their agreements, and also allow them to view and request Volume Licensing Product Keys for software in their agreements. Additionally, customers can calculate license statements on the Web site.

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