In the run-up to the end of its financial year, Microsoft is offering a 15% discount on purchases of Windows XP Professional upgrades and Office 2003 software made under its Open or Open Subscription licences.
According to analyst firm Gartner, users will not have to buy a Software Assurance maintenance contract to gain the savings.
Gartner estimates the promotion gives companies buying 250 Windows XP upgrades similar levels of discount to those buying 5,000 upgrades.
The analyst firm advised small businesses that were considering buying Office products or upgrading to Windows XP before the end of 2004 to take advantage of the Microsoft promotion. It also urged mid-sized companies looking to buy Office software or upgrade to Windows XP to assess whether the promotion's pricing was better than their usual discount.
John Handby, chief executive of user group CIO Connect, said Microsoft was softening its licensing terms. "Now is the time to negotiate. Microsoft is aware of the open source movement, which is stronger than it was a year ago," he said.