Windows Intune Gives A Glimpse At Microsoft’s Licensing Future

With Microsoft's fiscal year end coming to a close today, I wanted to spend some time focusing on future licensing direction. Windows Intune is a significant offering from Microsoft that blends cloud-based management, on-premises tools  from the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), and Windows – as a subscription service. Let’s put Intune aside for a moment.

Like all software vendors, Microsoft is keen on pulling customers into an annuity relationship for their offerings – a dependable revenue stream that isn’t as vulnerable to things like economic downturns or anything that might delay a purchase. When Microsoft first introduced the Software Assurance (SA) program, it was primarily just upgrade rights –  while a license was covered under SA, you had rights to deploy any new versions that came out during that time. Over the years Microsoft has refined the program, adding different benefits to incent customers into the program – but the primary focus of value has remained upgrade rights. Unlike other vendors, Microsoft included security patches and updates as part of a license, so their “software maintenance” program has always been something a little different.

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Microsoft Licensing, June 2010 — The Perfect Storm

Last week I recorded a podcast on what has recently become a very hot IT research topic at Forrester right now — Microsoft licensing. June 2010 signifies an extremely active and very hectic month for a large number of businesses because it's not only the last month of Microsoft’s fiscal year but also the last month for a large portion of Microsoft's three-year contracts.

The reason for this pileup of Microsoft licensing activity partially stems back to 2000: Microsoft refreshed their volume licensing program and introduced Software Assurance. Microsoft Enterprise Agreements are typically for three years. Facing the initial June deadline in 2001, many businesses switched over to this offering and since then, every three years their licensing agreements need to be reassessed and renegotiated. Now fast forward nine years to June 2010 and factor in several significant new products releases — and  here we are again witnessing what is truly the perfect storm of activity, discussion, and negotiation for businesses and their Microsoft licensing, decision-making personnel.

As you might expect, we receive an ever-increasing number of inquiries related to this subject as we continue to get closer to the aforementioned June 30th deadline. Clients bring a range of questions like whether or not they should renew their enterprise agreement (EA), if Software Assurance holds enough value to justify the commitment, or what IT upgrades and migrations impact their decisions. My first response to these questions is. . . there is no easy answer. Each company has their own set of requirements, cost limitations, and future strategic plans that affect which decision is right for them.

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