Microsoft quietly cuts number of product keys available to TechNet subscribers

Summary:Less than a week ago, Microsoft blogger Paul Thurrott mentioned a supposed TechNet bug, via which subscribers to Microsoft's TechNet service were missing some of their product-license keys. It turns out this wasn't a bug; it's a "feature," according to Microsoft.

Less than a week ago, Microsoft blogger Paul Thurrott mentioned a supposed TechNet bug, via which subscribers to Microsoft's TechNet service were missing some of their product-license keys.

It turns out this wasn't a bug; it's a "feature," according to Microsoft.

Thurrott updated his September 19 blog post, noting the change in terms of service were intentional, not an accident. The Register followed up yesterday, noting the quiet change, and claiming the move was done without notice.

I asked Microsoft why it had reduced the number of product-license keys available to TechNet subscribers and told it was primarily a piracy-prevention issue.

If you sign up for a TechNet Professional subscription you now get five product keys. If you sign up for TechNet Standard, you get two. TechNet subscribers previously got 10 product keys as part of their subscription price.

A TechNet Standard subscription costs $199 ($149 for an upgrade). A Professional subscription costs $349 ($249 for a renewal). For customer who want media included, the price of a TechNet subscription is $599 ($499 for a renewal). TechNet subscribers get access to Windows, Office, SharePoint, CRM, ERP and a wide range of other Microsoft software as part of the licensing fee.

When I asked about the change in the number of keys, a Microsoft spokesperson mailed me the following statement:

"Microsoft is committed to helping prevent software piracy, which often results in end users being the victims of software counterfeiters. Counterfeiters abuse product keys to create fake software packages and distribute these to the public. These packages are not licensed, do not have support, and can also include malware and spyware.

"Therefore, Microsoft has decided to limit the number of product keys available through TechNet Subscriptions, for all products, to five for TechNet Professional and two for TechNet Standard. TechNet Subscriptions is intended to support software trial and evaluation, versus a production environment. We offer other programs for volume purchasing and installation. We believe this change maintains a sufficient number of product keys for the majority of our customers based on usage data, while greatly reducing the overall risk of piracy and counterfeiting. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion this action may have caused our subscribers."

Anybody out there caught unaware by Microsoft's move? Do you buy the argument that fewer keys are plenty?

Update: Microsoft officials said the company is not cutting the number of product keys provided to its MSDN licensees.

Topics: Microsoft, Software

About

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

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.