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Microsoft to Unveil Next Generation of Software Assurance Next Month

Microsoft has scheduled four Webcasts starting at midnight on Sept. 15 to unveil the "Next Generation of Software Assurance."

According to Microsoft's Web site, the Webcast will explain "enhancements being made to Software Assurance that will help maximize the value of your Microsoft software investment and empower IT professionals in your organization."

The title of the presentation, with its promise of a "Next Generation," and the four broadcast times suggest many more changes are coming than what Microsoft usually introduces in a standard quarterly information session on licensing.

"Although we are not ready to share the details yet, the Webcast will discuss how the company is continuing to deliver on its commitment to increase the value of SA and provide customers with more value, assistance and better manageability throughout each stage of the product lifecycle," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

The Webcast times are midnight, 8 a.m., noon and 6:30 p.m. Pacific time. The sign-up page is microsoftsoftwareassurance.savvislive.com/.

Microsoft has been tweaking Software Assurance almost since rolling it out as part of the Licensing 6.0 program in mid-2002.

The biggest change to the Software Assurance program for volume licensing customers came in September 2003 when a package of new services, programs and rights were lumped in with Software Assurance, which had up until then been largely a replacement of various upgrade-right programs. The price remained the same -- an annual fee on top of software purchases that came out to roughly 25 percent of the cost of the server software and 29 percent of the cost of desktop software.

Since then the benefits have been adjusted further. As of now, Software Assurance brings 14 benefits. They are new version rights, spread payment options for the underlying software, home-use rights for Office System products, employee discounts on Microsoft's productivity and consumer products, TechNet Plus subscriptions for server software, Problem Resolution Support for servers, Extended Lifecycle Hotfix Support for servers, complimentary cold backup server licenses, Corporate Error Reporting, Windows source code access for internal development and support (only for customers licensing 1,500 or more desktops), TechNet Online Concierge Chat, eLearning and training vouchers for desktop software.

Early indications are that the changes to Software Assurance will be further adjustments rather than drastic overhauls. In a May interview with ENT, Cori Hartje, director of marketing and readiness for Microsoft's Worldwide Licensing and Product group, said, "We're not working on anything revolutionary in that regard. We want to fine tune what we have."

Hartje said Microsoft's focus for now would be on business simplification, such as the changes this summer to Microsoft's Product Use Rights document. Microsoft pared about 100 pages of documentation down to 40-some pages, taking 70 distinct products and grouping them into nine categories. She also said Microsoft is also working on better desktop support and more flexibility. Whatever comes will apply backward to customers who have already signed up for Software Assurance. "If we make it better, then they get those benefits," Hartje said.

About the Author

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

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