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Microsoft's Inspire partner event risks being overshadowed by moves the vendor has made to change its internal use rights channel policy.
The vendor would like the channel to be focused on getting the latest messages about its cloud progress and the adoption of collaborative tools but the decision to end the opportunity for partners to enjoy licenses that gave them the rights to use the software internally have stirred up a storm of protest.
The firm stated in a blog post that from 1 July next year licenses will not be covering everyday use but will still be available for, "business development scenarios such as demonstration purposes, solution/services development purposes, and internal training".
Speaking before the Inspire event gets underway Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, One Commercial Partner at Microsoft, indicated that the cost of providing the benefit had become too much to bear.
In reported remarks she said that the vendor has more than 300,000 partner firms and has been adding to that at a rate of 7,000 per month. That growth has made the licenses unaffordable and she indicated that the costs had blown the budget and money was needed elsewhere for channel programmes.
Schuster acknowledged the wave of protests from the channel but argued that there was a business rationale for the decision and the current situation was untenable.
"We can’t actually afford to run every single partner’s organization all around the world anymore, because it’s not free," she said.
Those comments are unlikely to satisfy those 6,000 people that have signed the petition, Disapprove Microsoft Partner Network Changes.
Some of the comments on the petition, which is arguing for a reverse of the decision, have pointed out that partners are an extension of the vendor's salesforce and deserve to be able to use the products that they are recommending to customers.
"Microsoft needs to value partners as much as business values employees. Partners are 1st line for business entities exposure to all things IT. Does Microsoft want their name mentioned or Google’s for business applications," asked one signatory.