Read the Exchange 2007 fine print

Any business users out there finding the little-publicized Exchange 2007/Outlook 2007 licensing changes Microsoft has made to be potential "deployment blockers"?

When Microsoft announced its planned line-up of Office and Exchange 2007 packages earlier this year, there wasn't a whole lot of outcry about the company's decision to cut Outlook from the Exchange CAL (client-access license). But now the reality is setting in -- and some business customers are none too happy about it.

Jeff Centimano blogged on about the Exchange CAL changes just before the holidays.

"Unless your Exchange CAL Software Assurance was current as of November 30, 2006 - an upgrade to Exchange Server 2007 and Outlook 2007 might cost more than you expected. The official announcement is buried in the Product Use Rights section of," said Centimano, an IT consultant and Windows Server Most Valuable Professional (MVP).

Microsoft is trying to put a positive spin on the change, but not sounding very convincing in the process. When I asked for a comment on Centimano's post, the company sent me the following response, from Jevon Fark, Unified Communications Gorup product manager:

“In an effort to simplify licensing for customers, Microsoft is aligning products in a way that maps to the most common customer purchase process. By separating client and server purchases we are helping to streamline the purchasing process for our customers. As a result, Outlook, which is a client product, will not be included as part of Exchange Server 2007. An exception will be made for active SA customers.”

Hmmm. Simplification? Sounds more like a way for Microsoft to wring more dollars from customers, to me. Centimano, likewise, wondered aloud:

"(W)ithout Outlook 2007 - what exactly does Microsoft expect clients to use to access Exchange 2007? OWA (Outlook Web Access)? Previous versions of Outlook? It just doesn't make any sense to me. Outlook 2007 rocks... so why create another deployment blocker?"

Another blogger, Vlad Mazek, who is the system administrator behind, and, also questioned Microsoft's licensing move:

"This is either brilliant or idiotic, I am not sure which. On one hand, this will force the customers to see even more value in Software Assurance, a program that has been seen by many as a relatively worthless set of benefits with no worth-while upgrades over the past few years. On the other hand, this eliminates Microsoft Outlook as the defacto Microsoft Exchange user interface and shifts more users to OWA and Windows Mobile.

"End game? Microsoft gets more Software Assurance subscribers but opens the door wide open for Open Office. Now if they were just smart enough to create a web-only desktop and integrate OWA with the productivity tools at Office Online…. Wait, wasn’t that Google’s supposed plan all along? Booya!"

Any other business users out there who are finding the Exchange 2007/Outlook 2007 licensing changes to be onerous?