Microsoft Australia's largest customers are being offered licensing packages tailored more specifically for their individual needs.
Only about 20 organisations in Australia qualify for the plan, which involves the upper echelon of enterprise customers in Microsoft's Select licensing program.
Microsoft national sales manager Phil Carrier said he expected about 10 of those customers would sign up for the custom- tailored packages.
In the US, the term "subscription plan" is being used to describe the program. According to US reports, it involves company-wide, multi-year Windows agreements that include a series of upgrades, patches, services and possibly other applications and network support.
Making licensing easier
According to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft executive vice-president for sales and support, it will simplify licensing procedures and make life easier for clients in terms of tracking versions and counting desktops.
One advantage for companies would be that employees could bring in newer versions of Microsoft software and install it on their PCs without violating the company's licensing agreement, according to Ballmer. Microsoft is facing not only licensing and business hurdles to create this new sales channel, but also the need to develop technology for the tracking and delivery of code electronically.
In a presentation to financial analysts in Seattle recently, Microsoft chairman and CEO Bill Gates detailed the future of Windows to include quarterly service packs, Internet delivery, and upgrades about every two years.
"We're working on [software delivery] on an annuity basis, like a magazine subscription, that buys access to all the bits," Gates said.
Industry observers pointed out that although the system offers efficiencies to corporate sites, it could impede the flexibility of multivendor environments and allow Microsoft a large foot in the door of IT departments to promote its other products. In fact, some fear that the flexibility to go to other, non-Microsoft systems could be compromised.
Such subscriptions could also remove middlemen and resellers from the equation for some services.
"This will help regularise our customers as they upgrade and move forward," Ballmer said.
"For large accounts they keep current, and we can efficiently deliver bits. Large customers want more regular purchasing relationships."