Redmond View

Life After Ballmer and the Demise of TechNet

No one likes change, yet there's a flurry of it hitting IT pros lately, especially those who have a stake in the future of Windows, the .NET Framework and Microsoft.

The upheaval in Redmond over the past few months, culminating with the announcement of Steve Ballmer retiring with no successor in waiting, would suggest all bets are off.

Not until Microsoft names a new CEO will IT pros and developers -- many of which are feeling disenfranchised these days -- have a better sense of where the company is headed. Even once the new CEO comes on board, it'll take time to assess and communicate the next steps. But given the company's decision to acquire Nokia for $7.2 billion, it's a reasonable bet -- barring some major unexpected change -- the "devices and services" strategy is here to stay for now.

Despite all the turmoil, 69 percent of you are confident Microsoft will remain a key provider of enterprise software and services.

While the big picture is important, other changes in Redmond have weighed on IT pros. Notably, many IT pros are angry about the demise of the Microsoft TechNet subscription program. Many rely on TechNet to test both new and old software, and this summer Redmond said it's discontinuing the program.

Instead, Microsoft has urged IT pros to either buy MSDN subscriptions, which carry high annual fees ($6,200 the first year and $2,600 each year after), or use the software resources still offered by the TechNet Evaluation Center. While the latter resources are free, unlike TechNet subscriptions, they're only for a limited amount of time.

This hasn't gone over too well in many circles. Already nearly 12,000 IT pros have signed an online petition to either continue TechNet or offer a more affordable alternative to MSDN.

It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will bring back TechNet in some form, but the company gave it a 90-day stay of execution last month. The company also informed Microsoft Certified Trainers that they'll have access to software that doesn't expire but it's only good while they're in the Microsoft Certified Trainer program, meaning it, too, is temporary.

Microsoft's motive is likely to stop misuse of TechNet subscriptions among those who use them to run production systems -- and that's a reasonable concern. But at the same time it punishes legitimate IT pros looking to create lab environments, notes Redmond columnist Don Jones, who posted two commentaries. In short, Jones isn't optimistic about the prospect of TechNet making a full-blown return. The unfortunate thing, he notes, is Microsoft appears "to have turned a blind eye to such a large and diverse portion of its customer base."

Whoever Microsoft chooses as its next CEO will have lots of decisions to make on many levels. Hopefully keeping IT pros and developers engaged with the company will be a high priority and that philosophy will filter down. It's important to not just the current crop of IT pros, but to the next generation as well.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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