Microsoft offers Software Reassurance

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When the supplier introduced the Software Assurance (SA) scheme last year, many customers complained that it was poorly thought-out and would cost them more.

Some of Microsoft’s largest users cited the changes as a reason to investigate alternative technologies such as Linux.

But Microsoft said it has listened to criticism and has announced several new features for SA customers, available from September at no extra cost. These include:

Free copies of Microsoft Office software for customer employees to use at home;’Significant’ employee discounts on other software, including games;

  • Free web and telephone support for problems with server software (currently a chargeable service);
  • Free extended support for products that have gone beyond mainstream support life-cycles;
  • Tools to speed up deployment of Windows software;
  • Access to Windows source code for all customers with more than 1,500 licensed desktops – currently only available for government departments;
  • Free online learning software;
  • Training vouchers for use at authorised training centres.

Microsoft UK licensing manager Sue Hogg admitted that the add-ons were recognition that the original SA terms were not good enough.

‘We recognised we needed to enhance the offering. We are not trying to underestimate how much we alienated people. This shows we are serious about redressing the situation,’ she said.

‘SA is an important vehicle to maintain customer relationships. It’s like a product – we’re enhancing it with new features.’

The new additions will inevitably be perceived by some as a response to the growing threat to Microsoft from Linux and open source software.

‘We know we always need to be competitive. We are doing what people asked us to do,’ said Hogg.

The major benefit of SA when it was launched was that it allowed customers to take new versions of Microsoft software at no extra charge.

But for users that did not want to move to every new release, or had longer upgrade cycles, the product was not always cost-effective.

IDC research director Al Gillen said the additions would make SA a much better option for users.

‘This is going to help make it easier to justify buying SA. This rounds off SA and makes it a much better value proposition,’ he said.

‘I don’t see a downside to this. Microsoft is beefing up the programme and trying to make it more attractive.’

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