Confusion reigns over Microsoft's changes to the upgrade cycles of its Office suite, with claims the software giant failed to notify resellers that modifications to availability and pricing would occur.
Microsoft has discontinued versions of Office 2000, following the launch of XP in June. Changes will also be made to the upgrade paths of the software from October. Yet the new system has drawn criticism from the channel.
"In the past you have been able to buy Office 2000 licensing as a standard edition, or as a more expensive multi-language version," explained Alex Petridis, director of Corporate Software in Sydney. "When they released the August price list, only the multi-language versions were available."
Petridis says he was not notified of the changes.
"We were not made aware of the decision to dump Office 2000 so suddenly," he said. "They didn't even put it on their Web site or on the Partner e-mail service. We were forced to buy off the remaining stock of Office 2000 from distributors and in some cases, from other resellers just to cover our current quotes."
Microsoft's product marketing manager Mark Linton said the discontinuation of Office 2000 follows previous strategies, and that Microsoft went to great effort to make the channel aware of changes to upgrade paths. Distributors were given 30 days notice of the changes so that old stock could be returned," he said.
"I have been around the country twice telling people the licencing terms have changed for XP and notifying as many people as we can for the last two months. I think we have done all we can, we can't talk to everyone."
An Express Data spokesperson said Microsoft had listed Office 2000 as a "potentially obsolete" product on its price list, a month ago, but this was only confirmed by the vendor two weeks prior to the deadline.
"That's normal procedure," the spokesperson said. "We have received mixed feedback from resellers, but Microsoft is very flexible about the products on the whole."
The primary change to upgrades of Office XP relates to valid upgrade products. Customers could upgrade to Office 2000 from a range of competitive upgrades on qualifying products such as the Works suite. However this upgrade path is not available with the new XP product.
"It wasn't rewarding the people who had invested in the Office suite," Linton said. "It needed to be simpler to find out if a product qualified for pricing."
But this, combined with the discontinuation of Office 2000 version, has proven to be a sticking point.
"In July, a customer wishing to upgrade from Microsoft Word to Microsoft Office 2000 Professional would purchase an upgrade product," Petridis said. "Now they must purchase the multi-language product at a 19 per cent increase in price.
"What possible justification does Microsoft have to remove these items from the price list before October 1st, the date that is still showing on their Web site? How can a reseller in all confidence, go and attempt to sell the products when the goal posts keep moving without warning?"
The new system, he said, requires a lot more administration from the client's point of view, because they are handling mixed licensing systems.