Does Microsoft complicate its licensing on purpose?

Recent comments from the company's CEO suggest the company has little interest in simplifying its licensing any time soon

Navigating Microsoft's complex rules and programs for software licensing has been notoriously difficult for businesses -- a pain point not lost on the company, which for years has said it is trying to simplify the process for customers.

But remarks made recently by Microsoft's top executive, as well as suspicions raised by customers and software consultants, suggest that Microsoft keeps its licensing complicated for a reason, and that it has no plans to make it any simpler in the foreseeable future.

CEO Steve Ballmer was asked earlier this week at an event in London when Microsoft will simplify its licensing, according to several reports. His response: not anytime soon. "I don't anticipate a big round of simplifying our licenses," Ballmer was quoted as saying. "Every time you simplify something, you get rid of something."

While he acknowledged licensing is complicated, Ballmer said those complications sometimes allow customers to use the fine print to save themselves money. Simplifying the process, he reasoned, would cost them that advantage.

In a recent interview, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop also defended Microsoft's licensing. He acknowledged that it can be difficult to contend with, but said customers find it worth the time and money they invest because it brings them products that help them to innovate and lower their costs.

Customers tend to take a big-picture view of licensing, according to Elop -- that is, they look at the value it adds to their businesses overall, rather than dwell on the minutia of individual licenses required for the products they use.

"Customers want the amount they pay to be tied to the value that they’re driving, the usage they’re getting -- that’s why these models are so complicated," he said. "For different customers, these things are measured in different ways.

"What a customer will do generally is take a big step back and say, what am I paying for e-mail? What am I paying for collaboration? And they will make a determination as to whether they think that’s fair value or less than fair value," he said.

Nevertheless, customers grouse that Microsoft's licensing terms -- particularly a requirement that they buy client access licenses (CALs) for each employee who uses Microsoft's business software -- are harder than they need to be. Some are resigned to their fate, as they don't foresee any long-term resolution to what has been a constant problem.

"I would never say that it's easy," said a senior manager at a Silicon Valley gaming company that uses Microsoft's products. While his company is generally happy with the products it uses, he said, "it's always challenging" to ensure his company stays compliant with Microsoft's licensing agreements -- especially when it comes to CALs.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftsoftware licensing

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?