Microsoft's ever colourful CEO, Steve Ballmer, defended the company's licensing structure, pricing for the desktop version of Windows, and the software industry's use of UCITA at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference last week.
When asked if Microsoft is reconsidering its Software Assurance plan, Ballmer outlined the plan's benefits, which include that it gives customers a right to all upgrades, fixes, patches and any enhancements Microsoft issues via add-on packs and capabilities, as opposed to more frequent full upgrades. He added that customers have the right to any big upgrades that Microsoft issues as well.
"Our goal when we started out was to simplify things. We learned that when you clean things up, sometimes it ends up costing customers more money," Ballmer said.
Gartner analyst David Smith, who was on stage with Ballmer, asked if Microsoft is planning to move toward a per-user licensing basis.
"We agreed it would be nice to have a number of options," Ballmer said. He explained that some situations call for a per-user basis while for others a per-device model is more effective; for example, a shop-room floor where 30 people might use a single machine at different times.
Gartner analysts pressed Ballmer on the idea that lowering the price of Windows desktop operating systems would bring down the price of PCs, thereby potentially stimulating demand.
Ballmer explained that even bringing the price of Windows down, say, $US20 would mean that Microsoft would have that much less to put into product development.
"We're not blind to the issues," Ballmer said. "Will it drive a lot of demand? No. Will it take away our ability to innovate? Yes."
Microsoft also announced that it is developing a new member for its family of Office software products that will allow business users to create, edit and view XML (Extensible Markup Language) documents.
The application, which has been given the code name XDocs, is like a word processor for XML and can help businesses reduce the amount of steps that it takes to gather and re-use corporate information, said Scott Bishop, product manager with Microsoft's Office group.
With XDocs, companies will be able to create form-like documents that can be used by employees to collect an assortment of data and then deliver it in the XML format to various back-end systems. The software will have a similar user interface to other Office applications such as Microsoft Word.
XDocs is being tested now by a handful of Microsoft's customers and is expected to go into wider beta testing by the end of the year. General availability is scheduled for mid-2003, Microsoft said.