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Microsoft to cut a carrot from its Software Assurance licensing plan

To entice customers to sign up for its Software Assurance subscription-licensing plan, Microsoft has added a number of carrots over the years. But it's about to cut one of those carrots, its Employee Purchase Program (EPP), as of November 2010.

To entice customers to sign up for its Software Assurance subscription-licensing plan, Microsoft has added a number of carrots over the years. But it's about to cut one of those carrots, as of November 2010.

The Employee Purchase Program (EPP), a benefit which Microsoft introduced in 2003, is going away.The EPP allows Software Assurance subscribers to purchase up to three copies of some of Microsoft's consumer software and hardware -- including Office, Windows, games and hardware -- at discounted prices.

Microsoft's volume licensing team sent a note to Software Assurance subscribers about the planned phase-out back in March 2010, but it seems that at least some in the Microsoft community were unaware of the upcoming deadline.

Microsoft officials told Software Assurance (SA) customers that use of EPP has "gradually declined" since its introduction. From the March note:

"For all Software Assurance customers eligible for EPP, the number of individual product licenses purchased on average by organizations is less than one. In addition, the vast majority of product licenses purchased are for Microsoft Office, making up 90 percent of the EPP orders today.

During the same timeframe the Home Use Program (HUP) for Microsoft Office has provided millions of organizations' employees with Office at home via a convenient download service, providing Microsoft Office at cost recovery at around $10 per employee (local currency pricing varies). We believe this offers your employees an easier and more affordable program for using Microsoft Office at home."

(I wonder whether part of the reason use of EPP gradually declined was because relatively few customers seem to know of its existence. I had never heard of it until Hardware Geeks' Michael Reyes asked me this week if I had heard why it was going away.)

Microsoft is recommending EPP customers evaluate the Home Use Program as a way to get Microsoft Office for their employees. But HUP only provides for cheap copies of Office and not games or Windows or any other consumer software.

"The most significant beneft of SA, by far, is upgrade rights, but I think the EPP and the HUP (Home use program) were reasonably popular," said licensing expert and Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot. "The HUP is more restrictive, applying to a specific set of apps like Office, and while that might seem like a cheap way to get Office at home, a lot of people don't need it, since Office has 'portable use rights,' which lets you install a second copy on a portable device. So a lot of people don't need SA to get Office for home use."

DeGroot noted that the EPP covers a much broader range of products, including consumer products.

Update (August 9): Got a couple more (non) answers to some questions about HUP/EPP from a Microsoft spokesperson:

Any plans to expand it to include Windows, games, consumer software, hardware, like EPP has?

"We’re not able to comment on future plans for making Windows, games or other software and hardware available via the HUP/EPP program."

2) Will MS allow SA users to access the corporate store in some way (as they seem to be able to with EPP)?

"We’re constantly looking at options to better serve our customers.  However, Software Assurance (SA) users currently do not have access and we’re not able to comment on future plans at this time."


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