Microsoft gives Software Assurance a facelift

No changes to pricing though...
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

No changes to pricing though...

Microsoft has defended its controversial Software Assurance (SA) subscription-based licensing scheme, claiming businesses are failing to take advantage of the free training, consultancy and support benefits on offer.

The new add-on benefits were actually announced last year but are only now being made broadly available to Microsoft customers using the SA agreement. No changes have been made to the pricing structure.

The benefits on offer include a tool for working out the most cost-effective licensing package, up to 15 days of free consulting on desktop deployment, up to 2,100 training day vouchers for IT pros and 24/7 technical support. SA customers will also get exclusive access to Windows Vista Enterprise edition later this year.

Microsoft introduced the subscription-based SA four years ago to replace a volume licensing discount scheme that allowed customers to upgrade when it suited them. Under SA, users get free upgrades and other add-on benefits for the three years of their subscription.

This has failed to placate many users, however, and IT directors last year slammed the new add-on benefits as a "plaster for a gunshot wound" that failed to address the core issue of the cost of SA.

But Microsoft's new UK licensing manager Ram Dhaliwal defended the programme and, while declining to give exact figures, said the number of companies renewing their SA agreements is "strong" and in line with industry benchmarks.

Dhaliwal argued that many of those who claim SA is not cost-effective have not even tried some of the add-on benefits the scheme offers.

He said: "Once the benefits start to get activated, the customer starts to see return on investment. In the UK we need to do more awareness of how to activate the benefits."

Dhaliwal also said SA is an "evolving process" and that new changes would be continually introduced in response to customer feedback.

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