Licensing Change for Office 2003

Software Assurance customers got another bone when Microsoft disclosed an unexpected differentiation in the way it will distribute new features in Office 2003.

In previous versions of Office, new features have come primarily in the individual products (i.e. Word, Excel or PowerPoint) and the differences between the various Office suites merely consisted of which products were packaged together. With Office 2003, expected to ship sometime in the next few months, Microsoft is including different features in the Office components that ship with the different suites.

Two of the most touted features coming in Office 2003 are broad support for XML and information rights management (IRM). But Microsoft revealed last week that those features will only be available in the Professional Edition of Office, not the Standard Edition.

In Office 2003, the Standard Edition will consist of Word 2003, Excel 2003, Outlook 2003 and PowerPoint 2003. But those core programs will only support XML or IRM in the Professional Edition, not in the Standard Edition. The Professional Edition will also ship with Access 2003, Publisher 2003 and a Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2003. Pricing has not been disclosed.

Apparently to head off customer discontent, Microsoft will allow customers with upgrade protection coverage for Office Standard Edition to migrate to the Professional versions of Word 2003, Excel 2003, Outlook 2003 and PowerPoint 2003. Covered forms of upgrade protection include Software Assurance, Enterprise Agreement or Upgrade Advantage that is active any time between Sept. 1, 2003 and March 31, 2004. The special program will not give those customers the rights to use the Access, Publisher or Business Contacts Manager components that are not included in the Standard Edition.

In the last few months, Microsoft has been adding benefits to its Licensing 6.0 and Software Assurance programs to make the long-term licensing deals more attractive to customers who have either been reluctant to sign on or have been unhappy with the arrangement once they were locked in.

In May, Microsoft announced new benefits for Software Assurance customers, including free technical support during regular business hours, employee home-use rights for Office System products, Web-based technical support resources, access to e-learning resources and vouchers for employees to attend training courses at certified technical education centers. Most of those changes go into effect next month.

Earlier in the year, Microsoft updated Licensing 6.0 with a new Open Value option, more flexible CALs for Windows Server 2003, a per-processor pricing option for server products and changes to contract wording to favor customers.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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