The Fantasy Microsoft Licensing League

The Fantasy Microsoft Licensing League

Summary: Want to know what everyone else is paying for their Microsoft licences? Here's how

TOPICS: Tech Industry
Microsoft's licensing deals are the best kept secret in the industry. If you have one, you know a piece of the puzzle but can't tell: Microsoft knows everything but won't tell. Yet even though you can't reveal your piece of the jigsaw -- and the top of the box with the finished picture on is nowhere to be seen -- you do know just that little bit more: the shape of the bits of the jigsaw adjacent to your own. If enough people offer up their best guess about what's going on in companies such as their own and someone else can collate all this, we may start to build up a picture.

Microsoft should be open to such ideas, according to a story from earlier this week concerning Microsoft's approach to licensing. In it, Microsoft UK's licence compliance manager, Alex Hilton, said that while the company had previously been seen as "wading in because it wanted the revenue", it now wants to present its customers with a more sensitive attitude. Of course, there was still a lot of confusion and complexity about licences, but making things simple would be counterproductive because "that will make our licensing programmes completely and utterly inflexible. There are lots of offerings in many colours and many shades, and that is much closer to what the customer needs," Hilton said.

Ah, poor Microsoft! So much perception to undo, so many customers to please. Is there anything we can do to help? We turned, as so often, to the thoughts of Bill Gates III: "The Internet will help achieve 'friction free capitalism' by putting buyer and seller in direct contact and providing more information to both about each other." Providing information on the Internet? That sounds like a job for ZDNet!

The free availability of information is essential for the proper operating of a market, and the proper operation of a market is in the interests of all. Microsoft's licensing operation is certainly big and important enough to qualify as a market -- so how can we help people to understand that market? What information can we provide to oil the mechanism and help customers choose which polychromatic, subtly shaded licence deal is best for them? Clearly, we should find out what people are buying and how much they're paying and let everyone know. Then when it's time for a new licence deal, people will be properly informed and can cut effective, fair deals.

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • I think this is a great idea! When, where will the results be?!

    I am going to a meeting with Microsoft today to discuss licensing for our 80-seat company.
  • A bit of advice for those who think they can send "anonymous" email using hotmail: reports your IP address in the mail headers when you send a message.

    Here is an excerpt from a hotmail email:
    Received: from [sender's-ip-address] by with HTTP; Thu, 17 Jun 2004 08:21:28 GMT does it too:
    Received: from [sender's-ip-address] by via HTTP; Thu, 17 Jun 2004 01:16:36 PDT