December 1 is turning into a red-letter day for Microsoft customers, and not in a good way.
Microsoft is increasing prices on User (not Device) client-access licenses as of December 1, as I blogged yesterday. But it looks like the Redmondians also will be raising prices on a number of Office server products compared to their predecessors on that date, as well.
While it's not unusual to charge more for more functionality, there seems to be other factors at work here. Even though its official message is users have choices, Microsoft is trying to wean consumers and business users away from on-premises Office software and onto cloud-hosted and/or subscription-based alternatives. One way the company is attempting this is by making on-premises software more expensive and offering lower prices on subscription-based options, like Office 365 Home Premium, Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office 365 Mid-Size Business, etc.
Rich Gibbons, Software Manager at European VAR Bechtle, blogged earlier this month about price hikes coming as of December 1 for Office users looking to buy the 2013 versions of Microsoft's Office server products. Software Advisors, a Sacramento, Calif.-based group of Microsoft-licensing experts, posted a similar blog entry corroborating the coming price hikes.
Microsoft released Office 2013 to manufacturing in October and made the final bits available to MSDN, TechNet and volume licensees shortly thereafter. As of December 1, Office 2013 client and server products get added to the Microsoft volume price lists. That's when business users can purchase the RTM bits and see the final, official SKU line-up. Microsoft has shared with some of its reseller partners information about what's coming on both fronts.
Microsoft has consolidated SharePoint so that there will be a single SKU -- known as SharePoint Server 2013 -- rather than having separate Standard and Enterprise SKUs. SharePoint Server 2013 will cost users more than 38 percent more than its SharePoint 2010 counterpart, according to both Gibbons and Software Advisors.
Lync also has been consolidated, with previous Standard and Enterprise versions being collapsed into a single "Lync Server 2013" edition.
Update: Here's an important clarification. Lync MVP Matthew Landis blogged in November that, actually, there still will be Standard and Enterprise versions of Lync 2013, but that they will be available for the same price. The same may be true of SharePoint 2013, based on this statement from Landis' post: “With the 2013 versions of Exchange Server, Lync Server and SharePoint Server, we are consolidating the right for External Users to access the server under the server license assigned to the server on which the software runs."
Gibbons said that Lync Server 2013 could cost upwards of 400 percent more than its predecessor. (That isn't a typo.) Software Advisors blogged that there would be a "substantial" increase in the cost of Lync 2013 compared to its predecessor. Software Advisors also noted in its post that "Skype functionality will (likely) be included in all CALs and user-subscription licenses (USLs)."
Visio Standard 2013 could cost more than 20 percent than its predecessor, Gibbons said. Software Advisors noted that Visio Premium has been "retired." Visio Standard pricing will increase of 20 percent, Software Advisors said, while Visio Professional will jump five percent.
According to pricing information provided by Microsoft to partners in early October, Office Standard 2013 will be priced at $369 and Office Professional Plus 2013 at $499. (These are estimated retail prices, I believe, meaning few, if any, will pay them. Volume licensees can haggle to some extent.)
A spokesperson for Microsoft's Office team declined to comment on any of the prices listed in Gibbons' or Software Advisors' posts. The spokesperson also said Microsoft wouldn't comment on the Office Standard or Professional Plus 2013 prices from the slide deck I saw.
"An increase in price when a new version is released is quite common, with most manufacturers, but coupled with the December 1st 15% increase on user CALs and just 6 months after the up to 30% price rise relating to the Euro/GBP levelling – I do not anticipate this being well received by customers!" Gibbons blogged.
Gibbons' suggestion for customers who are contemplating buying these products is to compare the cost of buying them in the remaining few days before December 1 under a Software Assurance (SA) licensing agreement to guard against being hit by the December price increases.
Software Advisors' guidance: "If you have these Office products under SA currently, you will completely own the current version within the licensing conversion plans and rules. You should seriously consider whether it is necessary to renew these under SA, as many of them might not ever even have a next on-premise version (might all move to the cloud). But, if you want to continue to place your bets on what’s next, Microsoft will happily take your Software Assurance payments."
I'm doubtful that Office 2013 marks the end of on-premises/locally installed versions of Office. It feels too soon to me, given enterprise buying habits and patterns. But given the Office team hasn't shared its packaging plans for Office Wave 16 yet, I can't make any promises....