Does Microsoft complicate its licensing on purpose?

Recent comments from the company's CEO suggest the company has little interest in simplifying its licensing any time soon

Navigating Microsoft's complex rules and programs for software licensing has been notoriously difficult for businesses -- a pain point not lost on the company, which for years has said it is trying to simplify the process for customers.

But remarks made recently by Microsoft's top executive, as well as suspicions raised by customers and software consultants, suggest that Microsoft keeps its licensing complicated for a reason, and that it has no plans to make it any simpler in the foreseeable future.

CEO Steve Ballmer was asked earlier this week at an event in London when Microsoft will simplify its licensing, according to several reports. His response: not anytime soon. "I don't anticipate a big round of simplifying our licenses," Ballmer was quoted as saying. "Every time you simplify something, you get rid of something."

While he acknowledged licensing is complicated, Ballmer said those complications sometimes allow customers to use the fine print to save themselves money. Simplifying the process, he reasoned, would cost them that advantage.

In a recent interview, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop also defended Microsoft's licensing. He acknowledged that it can be difficult to contend with, but said customers find it worth the time and money they invest because it brings them products that help them to innovate and lower their costs.

Customers tend to take a big-picture view of licensing, according to Elop -- that is, they look at the value it adds to their businesses overall, rather than dwell on the minutia of individual licenses required for the products they use.

"Customers want the amount they pay to be tied to the value that they’re driving, the usage they’re getting -- that’s why these models are so complicated," he said. "For different customers, these things are measured in different ways.

"What a customer will do generally is take a big step back and say, what am I paying for e-mail? What am I paying for collaboration? And they will make a determination as to whether they think that’s fair value or less than fair value," he said.

Nevertheless, customers grouse that Microsoft's licensing terms -- particularly a requirement that they buy client access licenses (CALs) for each employee who uses Microsoft's business software -- are harder than they need to be. Some are resigned to their fate, as they don't foresee any long-term resolution to what has been a constant problem.

"I would never say that it's easy," said a senior manager at a Silicon Valley gaming company that uses Microsoft's products. While his company is generally happy with the products it uses, he said, "it's always challenging" to ensure his company stays compliant with Microsoft's licensing agreements -- especially when it comes to CALs.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftsoftware licensing

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?