Meandering through the Microsoft NDA maze

Summary:Given the complexity and murkiness of many Microsoft non-disclosure agreements, it's good (and somewhat amusing) to see a member of Microsoft's Dynamics CRM team attempt to spell out the NDA terms for "Titan," a k a Dynamics CRM 4.0

NDAs: Non-disclosure agreements. They're the bane of many bloggers' and reporters' existence.

Meandering through the Microsoft NDA maze
Companies love to slap NDAs on partners and customers -- as well as those of us who write about them -- so folks won't blab before they're allowed about what's coming and when. NDAs are especially onerous when Microsoft and other companies attempt to enforce them for even those products and technologies that are no longer secret. (Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3 come readily to mind here.)

NDAs can be minefield. If one person breaks a Microsoft NDA, is the information covered by it subsequently considered public? That's one of many gray areas I've encountered myself.

Given these complex rules and regulations, it's good (and somewhat amusing) to see a member of Microsoft's Dynamics CRM team attempt to spell out the NDA terms for "Titan," a k a Dynamics CRM 4.0.

Microsoft CRM Solution Specialist Ben Vollmer posted on October 10 a blog entry entitled, "So the CRM Titan NDA is lifted? Yes and No...". (I am going to quote from the post at length, since I wouldn't be surprised to see it removed from the MSDN blogs site relatively soon.) Vollmer explained:

"As you have probably seen from the other blogs out there, the NDA for partners in the Early Adopters Program has been lifted. Sorta... Some of the restrictions are being lifted in order to effectively continue to build the interest, demand and your opportunities in the market for Titan. However you should be aware of the following restrictions and items still left out there... :-)

"1. Dynamics CRM partners can now discuss and demo the upcoming Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 release to customers in a 1:1 environment without an NDA. There are still restrictions in place around production usage as well as holding partner-led 4.0 launch events for multiple customers/prospects. See below for details.

"2. NDA restrictions are still in place for customers and partners participating in the CRM Live Early Access program until December 1, 2007.

"3. Upgradeability Notice: The current 4.0 beta version (CTP3), and any of your associated configuration and customizations, will NOT upgrade to the 4.0 RTM release. This notice only applies to the current CTP3 release."

In case you're still not clear, Vollmer supplies a "handy chart" regarding NDA coverage for the on-premise version of CRM 4.0.

It's been more than a little confusing to try to keep track of where the CRM 4.0 bits are in the beta/final pipeline. Users ultimately will be able to deploy the product on-premise, via a third-party hosting partner or via Microsoft as the host. But the final version of the Microsoft-hosted option -- designed to put Microsoft into head-to-head competition with Salesforce.com -- has been delayedl until some time in the first half of 2008, in terms of  general availability. The final partner-hosted/on-premise options are available to anyone starting in the fourth quarter of 2007. (A spokeswoman helped me wade through this confusion and tighten up my explanation here.  All I can say is "Whew! Good luck explaining that one to the masses.")

The Microsoft-hosted version ("Dynamics Live CRM") went to more than 100 customers and partners under an early-access program launched in early October, a company spokeswoman confirmed. (I think these folks are still not able to say a whole lot, at least if they are required to adhere to Vollmer's aforementioned quasi-NDA rules.)

The whole murky area around exactly what is covered by an NDA and what isn't seems ripe for an overhaul, at least on the Microsoft front. Perpetual and all-encompassing NDAs seem especially ripe for a makeover.

Any NDA horror stories -- or suggestions for improving NDAs -- to share?

(Traquair Maze. Image by fbechwati. CC 2.0)

Topics: Microsoft, Banking, Enterprise Software, Software

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Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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