Give us more time users tell Microsoft

Three of the UK's most influential user bodies have called on Microsoft to delay the introduction of fundamental changes to its...

Three of the UK's most influential user bodies have called on Microsoft to delay the introduction of fundamental changes to its software licensing regime, claiming UK organisations do not have enough time or information to decide which option to take.

With the cut-off date less than four weeks away, Elite, the British Computer Society's forum for IT directors, Imis, the IT management professional body, and local government IT managers' group Socitm asked for the delay in a letter sent to Microsoft's UK managing director, Neil Holloway, last week.

The organisations also sent a copy of the letter to trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt, and asked for her help to persuade Microsoft to agree to the delay.

The letter to Holloway asked Microsoft to put back the key decision date, when most existing software upgrade discount options disappear, from 1 October to 31 May next year. "The short notice given for the changes has not allowed sufficient time to explore the implications, financial and otherwise, of the various options now available to your customers," it stated.

The letter also pointed out that the existing deadline falls in the middle of the current financial year of most organisations, affecting budget forecasts and cashflow expectations.

"If our views are proved correct, then the changes will have a serious impact on business as a whole," the letter said. "We believe that every organisation deserves the time needed to make an informed decision on a potentially serious issue."

The organisations also said that Microsoft has not given customers enough information about its future product roadmap to enable them to make informed decisions.

"We assume that Microsoft does not expect its business customers to make these decisions effectively in the dark," the letter stated. "Consequently we request that you delay these changes until you have given customers the information they need."

Microsoft has not yet replied to the letter, and declined to comment to Computer Weekly.

Following a meeting last month, The Infrastructure Forum, (Tif) whose members include a significant proportion of FTSE 100 companies, said the proposed changes could result in cost increases of up to 130%. Commenting on the letter to Microsoft, David Roberts, chief executive of Tif, said, "It's a straightforward request and there are some good reasons that I think Tif members will support."

Last month's survey of the Computer Weekly 500 Club, made up of the heads of IT in the UK's 500 biggest companies and public sector equivalents, put the typical cost increase at between 30% and 50%.

Socitm estimates that the changes will cost local authorities an additional £80m over the next two years. Jim Haslem, vice-president of Socitm and head of IT at the London Borough of Bromley, described the 1 October deadline as "completely unrealistic".

"There is no way that most local authorities are going to be able to make an assessment in this time," he said.

Read full text of letter to Microsoft >>
Read full text of letter to Patricia Hewitt >>

Deadlines for Microsoft's planned changes are imminent
On 1 October Microsoft will replace Version 5 of its Open, Select and Enterprise volume licensing agreements with a new "Version 6", extending the time period covered from two to three years for Select and Enterprise agreements. It is introducing a new subscription licensing option for Enterprise customers under which customers can rent software for an annual fee.

At the same time Microsoft is scrapping its Version Upgrade, Product Upgrade, Competitive Upgrade and Language Upgrade programmes, all of which enable users to upgrade software at a discount. It has extended the life of its popular Upgrade Advantage discount scheme to 28 February (30 April for UK public sector organisations). But this option is only available to organisations that have a Select Version 5 agreement and Microsoft will not sign any more of these from 1 October.

Microsoft is replacing Upgrade Advantage with a new scheme called Software Assurance. But this is only available to organisations that are running what Microsoft considers to be the current version of its software - in the case of Office that is Office XP, which few UK organisations are using. And firms only have until 28 February to sign a Software Assurance deal that covers current software licences. After that date it will only be available when organisations sign new licences.

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