Microsoft Licensing: Too difficult?

Steve Ballmer was hosting a Q&A today (05/10/09) and was asked about plans to simplify Microsoft’s licensing. Brilliantly, he said they have no plans to do such a thing; somewhat expectedly, Twitter has lit up with person after person commenting that it’s all too hard and Ballmer should sort it out. However…

I don’t understand why people expect Microsoft licensing to be super simple and laid out so that everyone, no matter their field of expertise, can easily understand every part of it.

I don’t know how an engine is all put together, so I rely on mechanics. I don’t know how to re-program a washing machine,so I rely on engineers. I’m not 100% au fait with all the accounting procedures, so I rely on our Finance dept. At no stage do I expect that I should be able to work out & know all these things; much less do I demand that someone does something about it!

Yes-it is important and integral to an end users business that they get the correct licences, in the correct way, as cost-effectively as possible. However the same is true of servers…and VOIP…and storage…and the list goes on but I have never seen anyone moan about how confusing speccing up a SAN solution is…and that can be pretty complicated. People are perfectly happy to accept that these things are handled by experts, people with years of experience and the time to work out all the different ways of doing something…so why not software licensing?

In fact, it’s not software licensing as a whole…in reality, it’s just Microsoft licensing that people seem to have a problem with. If someone needs help working out whether Adobe TLP or CLP suits them best – fine. Help on whether they need a Backup Exec agent for each File server or should they get a virtual agent for the server – fine. Help on whether they need CALs or NULs for Crystal Reports server – fine. However, if they need help on whether OLP or OVP is best, or if they need Windows Server Std or Enterprise or if they should get CALs or a processor licence – then it’s a whole different story. Then it’s too complicated, it’s made to confuse and rip off end users and all it does is generate more money for Bill & Steve.

Yes, I’m a Microsoft fan and yes, my job is to provide licensing solutions to customers but I really think people are being over the top now. It’s similar to what happened with Vista, it’s become cool to slate MS licensing. Just like with the ill-fated OS, I suspect many people who are complaining haven’t had any bad experiences with it, or perhaps haven’t experienced it at all, but it’s cool to moan so everyone’s joining in!

If you’ve read this and there’s some part of MS licensing that’s confusing you-please leave a comment/drop me a tweet/send me an email and I’ll be happy to help 🙂

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