IT user groups have cautiously welcomed Microsoft's recent moves to win back the trust of the user community following last year's highly unpopular licensing changes.
Earlier this month Microsoft announced a new "open" framework for giving users advance warning of licensing and pricing changes. The company also plans to publish licensing guides for IT managers and non-IT managers in small and medium-sized businesses, and is to relaunch its set of free tools for helping users manage their licenses, including its Microsoft Volume License Service (MVLS).
"We aim to consistently engage in dialogue with customers about value to better understand their needs and ultimately deliver what they want," said Sue Hogg, Microsoft's licensing manager.
However, winning back customer trust will take time. Roger Ellis, treasurer of IT user group Elite, said, "The damage is not irresolvable but it will take a long time to mend and Microsoft needs to make sure its charm offensive is not just a six-month wonder".
Ellis said Microsoft "rode roughshod" over users last year and the licensing changes "left a nasty taste in the mouth" of many customers. "The feeling is that Microsoft is turning every screw it can to extract as much as it can from its customers," he said.
However, although Ellis said it could be argued that the move is a bit late and its motivation is more a reaction to the rise of the Linux operating system and the economic downturn than a genuine desire to help customers, he still welcomed the move.
"Microsoft needs to show a lot more goodwill, and this is a start," Ellis said.
His sentiments were echoed by David Roberts, chairman of corporate IT forum Tif. Roberts said recapturing customer trust and goodwill would be "a major effort" and would have to be sustained for two or three years to achieve results. "Delivery will be very hard work, especially without customer involvement, but they are moving in the right direction. It is very welcome," he said.
Roberts called on the Redmond giant to involve customers more in the decision-making process and to liaise with IT user organisations.
Analyst firm Gartner called the move "a first step" towards winning user trust, but said more needs to be done to convince users the announcement is not simply "a marketing mirage".
Guidance on Microsoft licencing
Microsoft has published new guides to licencing agreements on its website (www.microsoft.com). A pdf version of the guides can be downloaded, or you can order a hard copy.
Buying software: how to get the most from your software investment
Getting value from your business software: A guide for IT managers
Information on the Microsoft Volume License Service
Information on Software Assurance