Within a week of announcements in the US that Microsoft will trial subscription-based software licensing for Office XP in Australia, the vendor has launched a massive worldwide overhaul of its enterprise-software licensing model.
Today's announcement will see the gradual introduction of subscription-based rather than perpetual licences in the enterprise space.
According to Microsoft Australia licensing manager Robert Volger, by October the current enterprise-level licensing agreements will be replaced with an ongoing subscription model which tracks licensing compliance, and automatically provides upgrades to the latest software at the application, server and operating system model.
"The new model is based on the software as a service concept," Volger said. "The ongoing upgrades will allow us to release functionality more quickly than in the past."
Volger admitted that the excessive complexity of previous enterprise licensing models had "contributed to some corporate piracy".
The new model will reduce the eligibility requirements of enterprise-agreement customers from 500 to 250 seats, significantly increasing Microsoft's enterprise market place, and allow customers to rent rather than buy certain applications.
However, the subscription model also includes the "option" to pay for a service called Software Assurance along with specific software packages. Software Assurance pricing is set as a percentage of the licence costs and will automatically provide updates to the most recent versions of software packages. The service also includes what Volger describes as better licence management tools. Rather than employing a host of software licence consultants to advise on compliance, end users will have access to an online database containing their specific licensing agreements.
According to Vogel, end users who do not subscribe to their licences and the Software Assurance service by October 2003 will no longer have access to premium support services.
"Software Assurance is a way for us to ensure that the customers are working with the latest versions of our software, so we can deliver the highest possible level of support," Vogel explained.