Microsoft slashes product key allowances for TechNet subscribers

Microsoft slashes product key allowances for TechNet subscribers

Summary: For the second time in two years, Microsoft has significantly cut the benefits it offers to TechNet subscribers. Will the newly reduced allotments of Windows and Office product keys really reduce piracy or just annoy Microsoft's customers?

TOPICS: Microsoft

Microsoft’s TechNet program is one of the best bargains in personal computing. For an annual subscription price of $349, TechNet Professional subscribers get access to nearly every release of every operating system (desktop and server) and Office suite.

The licenses are valid for evaluation purposes only, but the downloadable products and product keys are typically Retail products, indistinguishable from shrink-wrapped products.

Two years ago, a TechNet Professional subscription entitled you to 10 product keys for every version of Windows and every version of Office. In September 2010, citing concerns over piracy, Microsoft cut those allotments to five keys.

Now, according to an announcement at the TechNet Subscriptions home page (link available only to signed-in TechNet subscribers), the number of product keys has just been slashed again:

Beginning in mid-March 2012, subscribers to TechNet Subscriptions (excluding TechNet Standard which are entitled to 2 keys per product) may access a maximum allocation of three (3) product keys for Microsoft Office and Windows Client products in connection with their subscription. The allotted keys may only be used for software evaluation purposes. Once the maximum keys have been activated, no more keys will be made available. Additional product keys may be acquired through the purchase of an additional subscription.

In addition to that restriction, Microsoft has also imposed restrictions on the number of keys that can be claimed on any given day. As another support page notes, a TechNet Professional (Retail) subscriber can claim 44 keys in a 24-hour period.

Reaching your limit means that you have claimed the maximum number of keys allowed for your program benefit level within a 24 hour period. Every 24 hours you may claim another set of keys, up to your program levels maximum.

The same document includes an explanation of sorts for the sudden spate of changes:

Why has Microsoft limited my access to product keys?

We are acting to protect the value of your subscription. If we did not act to prevent abuse of subscriptions we would eventually have to either limit the products available in a subscription or raise the price of your subscription. We believe that this is the best compromise to continue to deliver the highest value to you while limiting abuse at the same time.

Over the past few years, I have encountered countless examples of unauthorized resellers hawking Windows and Office product keys on legit-looking websites. It was a lucrative business for scammers, whose $349 got them 10 licenses for Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate. It was practically a license to print money, as long as their customers activated the resold product keys before Microsoft cut them off.

Even at five keys per product, the economics made it worth trying.

The question now is whether the newly reduced allotment of product keys will actually reduce piracy or simply annoy TechNet subscribers.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • Annoyed

    But I get it. Pirates ruin it for everyone
    • Poor poor fanboys

      No slack for you.
    • No...

      Stupid execs who thinks of retarded ways to to try to stop pirates while only annoying regular people ruin it for everyone.
    • Pirates ruin it only until piracy is encouraged

      Microsoft openly admits in that article how they want piracy. When it suits them.


      The relevant paragraphs of that article (and ignore the great stuff in that article that hypes up Vista :) ):
      <i>By 2001, Microsoft executives were coming to the conclusion that China's weak IP-enforcement laws meant its usual pricing strategies were doomed to fail. Gates argued at the time that while it was terrible that people in China pirated so much software, if they were going to pirate anybody's software he'd certainly prefer it be Microsoft's.

      Today Gates openly concedes that tolerating piracy turned out to be Microsoft's best long-term strategy. That's why Windows is used on an estimated 90% of China's 120 million PCs. "It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not," Gates says. "Are you kidding? You can get the real thing, and you get the same price." Indeed, in China's back alleys, Linux often costs more than Windows because it requires more disks. And Microsoft's own prices have dropped so low it now sells a $3 package of Windows and Office to students.</i>
  • Probably going back to the Action Pack

    My sub renewed the middle of this month. But I got the notice to renew at the end of January and did which was before they announced this change which I noticed around the 1st of this month.
    I'm probably going to switch back to the action pack, you still get 10 licenses with it and the hoops aren't all that difficult to get through.
    • Errr....

      We'll see for how long....
  • Extremely annoyed!

    If a class action suit is filed against MS regarding this changing the game twice on us, I'll gladly join in.
    Karl Snooks
    • Why?

      Did you genuinely buy a subscription AND legitimately use ALL of the product key alotments? Are you in any way hindered now that you weren't before?
      • Well, one might have to reformat the computer(s)

        There IS reasonable doubt to the (insensitive) claim that every customer of TechNet is a pirate by default.

        Still, why have "innocent until proven guilty" - we're all crooks. That's the gist of it...
  • The Future

    2014. One product key per product
    2016. Five Evaluation product keys. Allows 180 day use
    2018. One Evaluation product key. 180 days
    2020. 90 day evaluation product key.
    • Quite possibly

      Amazingly, yours isn't a top-rated comment...

      And given upgrade licenses aren't possible anymore, people will be paying through the teeth... except in countries where Microsoft encourages piracy (as with drug dealers, get them hooked for cheap and then ramp up the cost...)

      And that's not empty smoke, Microsoft is on record promoting piracy (when it suits them):
  • You can understand

    The amount of companies that have IT techs that just buy a technet subscription and basically run the business from it is a joke, Microsoft must lose millions from people doing this and ruin if for the rest of us.

    I don't see why people are making such a huge fuss about it though, you can get a 180 day trial of practically any server and normally 30-60 day of any office.
    • Since nobody else is citing sources to back up their claims,

      your not citing sources to prove that every company is using scores of technet keys illicitly is just as valid.

      So be sure to learn from the 180 days and never forget what's learned, because you won't be able to renew or get a refresher... (go ahead and vote this down, only those who do show they aren't in the industry or have to change jobs or skills only to have to re-learn them later on, which is one of the points for having licenses that go beyond 180 days...)
    • not really

      You are forgetting about all those OEM licenses that die with the motherboard or system disposition. Those licenses are no longer supported and Microsoft sells new ones.
  • Number of Installations Per License.

    Hi Ed,
    Are the product keys still good for 10 installations each or did they limit those as well? If I can install Windows/Office... 10 times for each product key, I'm fine with it. That adds up to 30 Windows/Office... installations. I only have 6 computers at home that I can use on a test network, so I would never reach the limit per key.
    • Agreed...

      I don't see the big issue and always felt the previous limits were excessive anyway. A huge enterprise doing development work is going to be licensing through MSDN and Volume Licensing, and any smaller business is going to have much smaller test/development labs unless they're trying to scam the system.

      As for a comment made by another commenter, I don't see it being businesses abusing this. I'm sure it's home users who have been gaming the system to license their home systems and for all their family and friends.
      • Suck it up, fanboys

        Hold that chin up high. Cheap Charlie MS is here to stay!

        Remember a couple of years back the broo-haw-haw over beta testers heavily involved in beta testing Windows 7 and not getting a free license key for their efforts?

        Well this is along the same lines. The same mentality.

        They finally relented after all the negative press they got but hey, cheap is as cheap was. Right? :p

      • @ScorpioBlack

        Then people should stop beta-testing.

        Microsoft doesn't earn its profits by being ethical in return to those who spend time and money testing their stuff. (e.g. people buying their own hardware on their own dime, or having the hardware that they bought at some point...)
    • These are retail keys

      The product keys for Windows and Office that are included with a TechNet subscription are retail keys and follow the same activation rules as full packaged product (FPP) copies. They're not special keys that get 10 installations each.
      Ed Bott
      • How many keys do you need to run evaluation software anyway?

        If you can install all of the software on 3 PC's, and transfer the activations to other computers (these are supposedly retail, but include VLK-only products like Windows Enterprise though), and then buy what you use in production, then it's still a bargain.