Developers stand up to keep Microsoft TechNet alive

Microsoft announced earlier this month it was killing TechNet, but a vocal group of diehards want Microsoft to keep it

Two weeks ago, Microsoft announced it was putting the TechNet subscription program out to pasture: Effective Aug. 31, nobody will be able to buy a TechNet subscription, and a year later the infrastructure disappears entirely. Independent IT consultants and developers in particular are screaming bloody murder. Some small-business consultants feel this is just another indication that Microsoft wants to sell directly to small businesses -- Office 365 being exhibit No. 1 -- and they take the demise of TechNet as another blow to the chops.

Microsoft has countered by offering IT professionals 180-day free evaluation copies of all of the TechNet software, but that doesn't assuage working pros. Ronny Pot, for example, says, "For IT pros, TechNet is the only affordable way to keep a home lab for testing purposes. It is undoable to rebuild the lab every 180 days or buy an MSDN subscription for these prices. A lab environment is needed for testing and learning purposes."

Independent IT consultant Cody Skidmore isn't going to take it lying down. He's started a petition on Change.org that, respectfully, asks Microsoft to "Continue TechNet or create an affordable alternative to MSDN subscriptions." At this moment, he has a little less than 4,000 signatures, and the number's growing quickly.

He's serious. "Don't assume Microsoft will backpedal. They may try placating us. Instead we must demonstrate our resolve."

Hannah Breeze at CRN in the United Kingdom took up the mantle with Janet Gibbons, Microsoft's U.K. director for partner strategy and programs. "I think we have heard from partners that the [180 day] Internal Use Rights from a developers' perspective is not long enough," she said. "I am sure we will listen to that and make a decision as to if we will change that period of time or not.The reason for the change is that many of the resources in TechNet were available online anyway. The explosion of online and the fact you can find out info so easily from anywhere [meant] we no longer felt it was appropriate to sell it. The product just naturally came to the end of its life."

Gibbons, of course, is painting a Microsoft party line on a volatile subject. While the TechNet forums -- open to everyone -- are and will continue to be a major source of information for IT pros of all stripes, TechNet includes more than the forums. Subscribers get two free phone support incidents, which can cost a bundle if purchased separately. Subscribers also have a guaranteed 24-hour response from a Microsoft support engineer when posting questions to a monitored forum. Many of us download the latest beta "preview" releases from TechNet, instead of resorting to torrents. That's all gone, or at least going, along with the uninterrupted testing platforms so many of us have deployed.

TechNet's recent history has me wondering whose hand is at the throttle. Three years ago, in June 2010, the folks at TechNet slashed the price of the Standard package, from $349 to $199, with renewals at $149 per year.

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