Confusion erupts over Microsoft licensing program

Confusion erupts over Microsoft licensing program

When a reseller is struggling to compete with the likes of Harvey Norman and other big retailers, the last thing it needs to find out is that the local church is selling Microsoft software at a significantly lower price than it can.

Confusion over Microsoft's "Select volume licensing program" saw the Uniting Church in Queensland offering its members software at a third of its retail price.

Trevor Austin, managing director of Toowoomba reseller Oakey Computer Systems, said his wife was shocked to see the offer in a newsletter she was given at the local Sunday morning church service.

"We just couldn't understand how the church was allowed to sell to members of the public," Austin told ARN.

"As a small retailer, we wanted to clear all of that up, because we have enough problems with Harvey Norman and everybody else selling against us. We couldn't possibly compete with the Church as well, considering the prices they were offering."

When ARN contacted the Uniting Church's NSW IT manager Bruce Coyte, he knew nothing about the "permission" to sell either software or licences to members of the Church.

"The main stipulation of the contract was that software could be sold to our parishes or to agencies of the Church and it was a way of helping them to get the latest technology," Coyte explained, adding that he was under the impression that the Church's agreement was categorised as being for "educational purposes".

This might have been the source of confusion that misled the Queensland synod to believe it was their duty to share the advantages of the agreement with their members.

Not surprisingly, even Microsoft officials were confused when asked about the deal.

Secret agreement

However, one thing it is sure of is that a Select agreement is a big volume agreement for large organisations - such as non-profit institutions like the Uniting Church, and is different to agreements with educational institutions.

"If the Uniting Church has one, under the agreement, they are not allowed to sell software to members of the Church," Microsoft's director of organisations customer unit, Geoff Wright, said.

According to Wright, a Select agreement entitles the Church to distribute software within the organisation, but only after it supplies Microsoft with a forecast of a number of licences it will require, followed by the payment of an appropriate fee.

"We will definitely get in contact with the Uniting Church and discuss our licence agreement with them," Wright said.

But, that might not be necessary after all, since, according to Coyle, the Church has stopped the offer already.

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