IT directors groups have hailed Microsoft's revamped Software Assurance licensing scheme as a step in the right direction, but they gave a mixed response to some parts of the package, which will be launched next month.
The Strategic Supplier Relationships Group (SSRG), formed from 11 of the UK's most influential IT user groups, said that although Microsoft was trying to add value to its subscription licensing scheme, many users could see little benefit in some of the changes.
The introduction of free desktop migration consultancy would only benefit larger businesses, and the ability to migrate to Vista Enterprise on its release later this year was only suited to users who were ready to move from current operating systems, the SSRG said.
The package also offers incident-based extended hotfix support, which only needs to be paid for when the first incident is logged.
Peter Monk, technical strategy consultant at the SSRG, said the new version of Software Assurance would increase value for money. "It is a move in the right direction."
However, he added, "It looks as though most people who have been paying for Software Assurance for five years have already overpaid for their replacement licences, and the value for money over the next three years is very poor."
Ollie Ross, research manager at The Corporate IT Forum, said, "Microsoft is an important supplier and we know that the company is aware of the serious concerns that many in corporate IT had over Software Assurance.
"We believe that the additional services and products being offered by Microsoft on top of the basic Software Assurance package are largely frills that do not add much value."
Ross said the consultancy and support extensions would only suit some companies. "They are spend- and size-dependent. Many of the additions appear only to assist in moving users to Vista."
However, Ross also warned that upgrading to Vista would be less easy for users who chose not to buy Software Assurance.
How the SSRG rates the changes to Software Assurance
Desktop deployment services
Providing this consultancy freely does not amount to much of the total cost, but up to 10 days with no bill is useful to the customer. * * * *
Information work solution services
It will be many years before customers generally have deployed and utilised the new facilities and features. We do not exploit what is available now, so why should we think people will do anything much more in future? *
Windows Vista Enterprise
This will only be available to Software Assurance customers on company-wide agreements. *
Currently it is difficult to spare staff for application training because of the loss of productivity and costs. *
Problem resolution support
This is a step in the right direction that may see greater benefits as time passes. * *
Extended hotfix support
This is more of the same, with a minor change to the way you pay. *