Microsoft responds to pressure over canceled TechNet subscriptions

The abrupt cancellation of Microsoft's TechNet subscription service sparked a sustained protest from IT pros, who had relied on easy, inexpensive access to Microsoft's enterprise software for well over a decade. In a string of announcements today, Microsoft extended an olive branch, but fell far short of reversing course.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's decision earlier this year to shut down its TechNet subscription service was sudden and unpopular among some of its most loyal customers. An online petition to "Continue TechNet or create an affordable alternative to MSDN" now has nearly 11,000 signatures.

Today Microsoft addressed some of those concerns. No, the governor hasn't shown up with a last-minute reprieve for the program, which stopped accepting new orders on August 31. But Microsoft has made a few changes that address some of the complaints from those soon-to-be-ex-TechNet subscribers.

First, any existing subscriber with an account that is set to expire between September 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014, will get a free 90-day extension of their subscription benefits. The stated purpose: "to help ensure customers have more time to plan for the transition to our other offerings."

Second, Microsoft announced that some older software packages will be made available on the TechNet Evaluation Center.

One of the bigger pieces of feedback we heard was that some people subscribe to TechNet Subscriptions primarily do so to access older product, to prep for migration and do app compatibility testing.  TechNet Evaluation Center houses trial software for our most recent releases and preview/betas -- we're adding prior versions to help enable this migration and testing from products still in mainstream support.  Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and others are available now and we'll be adding additional products in over time.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related announcement, a Microsoft spokesperson told me the company would be contacting members of its Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) program. For years, MCTs have been given a free TechNet subscription to help them prepare course materials and help with their training needs. That group was most affected by the sudden end of the longstanding program, and none of Microsoft's proposed alternatives made sense for them.

In response, Microsoft announced that it will be contacting MCTs directly in the next few weeks. Their existing TechNet subscriptions will be extended  for 90 days without charge and will be replaced shortly with "a new solution that will provide access to non-time bombed software for instructional/training purposes." Details aren't yet available.

I'll be contacting TechNet subscribers and getting their reactions shortly. I don't expect thesse modest changes to make much of a dent inthe grumbling. If you're a current TechNet subscriber, feel free to leave your comments in the Talkback section.

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