This month, I think it makes sense to take a look at a trend that has been growing over the past couple of years: subscription vs. perpetual licensing. You may not recognize the distinction between these two types of license entitlements when you look over your Microsoft Licensing Statement, but it’s crucial that you’re aware of the difference. Read on for the main differences between perpetual and subscription licensing, as well as more information about Microsoft’s subscription-only product offerings.
Nearly everyone is familiar with perpetual licensing. This is the way you would have traditionally purchased Office, Windows, Exchange, and other software titles. When you purchased Office 2007, for example, you knew that, after a one-time payment, this license was yours to keep and use in perpetuity. And if you had Software Assurance on that license, and the new version was released during that SA period, you owned the next version as well.
Late last decade, the practice of subscription licensing emerged. It helps to think of a subscription license as a software lease: you don’t actually own the software, so you’re paying for the usage of the software only. Once you stop paying, you must stop using the software. And now, several of Microsoft’s software offerings are simply not available in a perpetual-use model—if you want to use this software, you must continue to pay for it until you don’t want it anymore.
I’ve come across two main reactions to this trend:
1. How can I not actually own the software? If I pay for Office, I want to be able to use it indefinitely without being locked into an annual fee.
2. Why do I want to own previous versions of the software? I can’t sell my old software assets, so why not just pay for what I use?
Both points of view have merit. People are used to paying for a software product and owning it outright. But, having paid once, they might not be as likely to pay for new versions of that product. By implementing the subscription-only model, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is trying to retain a steady stream of revenue. I don’t necessarily think that’s a negative trend, but it is something everyone should be aware of. So for instance, if you deploy a subscription product like MDOP (Microsoft’s Desktop Optimization Pack), and you like MDOP, then you’ll have to continue paying for MDOP—but you’re also entitled to any updates without paying extra. If you choose not to renew MDOP at the end of your agreement, you’ll have to uninstall the software.
Microsoft’s Most Popular Subscription-Only Products