Microsoft has kicked off licensing add-ons that let enterprises add Office 365 subscriptions atop existing volume license agreements, touting the new options as a more flexible, simpler way for businesses to move to a rent-not-buy model.
Flexible: Maybe. Simpler? Hardly. Independent analysts scoffed at any notion of Microsoft's licensing becoming easier to understand, with one saying that the Redmond, Wash. company's practices have become so Byzantine it's "getting ridiculous."
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"Microsoft claims it's 'simple,' but I doubt that word is abused anywhere more than in Microsoft licensing," said Paul DeGroot, a licensing consultant whose Pica Communications specializes in Microsoft licensing, in an email reply to questions.
Others were just as skeptical of pairing "simple" in the same sentences as "Microsoft licensing."
"Microsoft says that with so many licensing choices comes more complexity," said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner who also fields clients' questions about Microsoft's policies. "That might be true, but the complexity is getting ridiculous."
The analysts were talking about Office 365 Add-ons, an offshoot of a promotion Microsoft ended June 30 that let enterprise customers add Office 365 to their existing EA (Enterprise Agreement) at a sharp discount.
According to Microsoft marketing materials, the new licensing add-ons, which launched Aug. 1, "Give you a simple, low-cost way to add Office 365 services at any time, while maintaining your current Enterprise Agreement and Software Assurance benefits."
Enterprise Agreement is the name of Microsoft's volume licensing program for its largest customers, companies, and organizations that license Windows or Office, and the accompanying CALs -- for "client-access licenses" -- for more than 250 PCs. An Office EA requires that all users or all PCs be covered by the agreement; each user or PC is allowed to run the suite though a "perpetual" license that, once paid for, can be used as long as the company wants to stick with that edition.
Complicating matters is that EAs automatically come with Software Assurance, an annuity-like program that lets a customer upgrade to future editions during the EA's three-year lifetime.