Several major IT user groups have expressed confidence that Microsoft's updated Software Assurance volume licensing model, due to be unveiled on 15 September, will mark a real step forward for corporate users hoping for improved terms and flexibility.
In recent months, Microsoft has come under pressure to improve on its four-year-old business subscription licensing package, with complaints from some IT directors that they have not received full value from Software Assurance as the introduction of new products and upgrades has slipped.
But Microsoft appears to have been listening to corporate IT users' concerns, running several roundtables with customers and partners, and there is now a widespread belief that the consultations will have made a substantial difference to the next incarnation of the software licensing model.
Mark Buckley, Microsoft's licensing manager, said the company wanted to "simplify and improve" its licensing to better meet customers' needs. "The feedback from the roundtables has played a critical role in helping us to improve the processes and enhance the value of our licensing offerings such as Software Assurance," he added.
David Roberts, chief executive of user group the Corporate IT Forum, said Microsoft's willingness to listen was partly an index of the current economic health of UK business.
He said firms were being financially squeezed and were in many cases only willing to upgrade when there was a clear, business-driven necessity to do so.
Ray Titcombe, chairman of the Strategic Supplier Relationships Group, said a growing number of firms were prepared to "sweat their assets" rather than upgrade prematurely.
"What is happening in industry is that organisations are looking at IT investments and typically utilising them for longer than they have in the past," he said.
Titcombe was hopeful that the 15 September offering from Microsoft would accurately reflect the needs of the customer community.
He said the economic climate had adversely affected software and hardware suppliers and despite Microsoft's market dominance it needed more than ever to work with the interests of customers.