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Microsoft: End-User Licensing Tool Will Help Partners Engage

A tool Microsoft posted on its Website this week to make licensing choices more transparent for IT end users should help partners engage with customers at a higher, more productive level, a senior Microsoft executive said.

"Partners can differentiate themselves by what they can do for customers, not by sifting through licensing," said Brent Callinicos, corporate vice president for Microsoft Worldwide Licensing and Pricing.

The Microsoft Product Licensing Advisor went live on Monday (Click here to view the tool). It allows IT end users to compare licensing programs, get licensing guidance, go through a training wizard and perform basic product selection. No registration is required.

Callinicos said he doesn't believe the tool will reduce partners' roles in the customer purchasing process. Instead, he said the tool is part of Microsoft's ongoing efforts to reduce the complexity and increase the transparency of its software licensing. As such, it should help partners move away from long conversations about licensing topics and start having discussions on the benefits Microsoft technologies can bring to a customer's business, he said.

Callinicos even suggested the tool could lead to more business for partners. "If a customer views licensing as a black box, [there's] that natural reluctance to engage in iterations and the frustrations that occur. We haven't said there's a quantifiable business opportunity from that. [But] that's universally a good thing if people are having more informed discussions around licensing and the value they will get from that," he said.

Microsoft laid out plans for specific enhancements to the Product Licensing Advisor in January and in the spring of 2006, and Callinicos committed to continuing improvements after the spring. The January, phase 2, version will include details on Product Use Rights and Software Assurance benefits; will sport a Microsoft.com catalog interface for detailed product advice; and will include guidance on add-ins and Client Access Licenses.

The phase 3 version coming in the spring will assist users in quotes for an entire business solution, offer best product scenarios and link to chats. Effective this week, Microsoft launched U.S. call centers to provide Product Licensing Advisor users with free assistance. Call centers will go worldwide in more than 20 languages with phase 3.

Long-term plans for the advisor include building in better intelligence for suggesting complete solutions to business problems and a secure, registered option that will take into account a customer's existing licensing contracts with Microsoft.

About the Author

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

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