March 14, 2006 12:17 PM PST

Microsoft bolsters Software Assurance program

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Microsoft has revamped its Software Assurance licensing program with eight new features for large companies, small- to medium-size customers and professionals.

These features include an extension of 24-hour support, an increase in the available training days allowed, more support during desktop deployments and support for Windows Vista. Microsoft outlined the changes back in September, but detailed them Tuesday in a Webcast for customers.

Software Assurance is a licensing plan that lets companies buy Microsoft products and upgrades on a subscription basis. Microsoft says it provides a way for consumers and corporations to understand how much they are paying for software and to receive support features on demand.

It has been criticized in the past for being expensive and hard to understand, areas that Microsoft says it has now addressed.

"There is no change in prices for the new features," Microsoft UK's licensing and marketing manager, Ram Dhaliwal, told ZDNet UK. "Yes, customers told us it was too complicated, and we have simplified it a lot. We have been making changes, and an enterprise licensing agreement (that) at one time ran to 214 pages is now 20 pages, and an open license agreement that was around 30 pages is now five."

Software Assurance includes 18 new features across what Microsoft designates as the five phases of the software life cycle: planning, deployment, usage, maintenance and transition.

There is no change to Microsoft's offering in the planning phase. It continues to offer upgrades to new versions of licensed software released under the agreement, and customers can make payments annually.

There are two new features covering the deployment phase. Under the 'desktop planning and deployment services,' enterprise and other select customers with Software Assurance can have services delivered either on-site or remotely by Microsoft certified partners or by Microsoft Consulting Services under one- to 10-day engagements. Information Work Solutions Services is a similar new plan for small- to medium-size business customers.

There are two new features under the usage section of Software Assurance--including upcoming support for Windows Vista Enterprise--that will be available only to customers who have signed up for Software Assurance, as Microsoft revealed in September 2005.

Windows Vista Enterprise with Software Assurance will provide full volume encryption, multiple language support, Virtual PC Express and a subsystem that allows users to run Unix applications under Vista. According to analysts at Gartner, because these features will be available only to customers of Software Assurance, "many customers who have not bought Software Assurance on the OS will need to re-evaluate their decision".

The second usage feature is enhanced training, which includes an extension of the number of training days available--from 165 to 2,100--under Software Assurance. "We want to offer this to the largest customers and we can now," Dhaliwal said.

Other new features include 24-hour phone support during "business-critical outages for all products eligible for Software Assurance benefits". This includes all server editions and Microsoft Windows-based and Microsoft Office applications.

Microsoft also updated its software assurance program six months ago.

Full details of Microsoft's Software Assurance are available here.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
Software Assurance, training, support, Microsoft Corp., Microsoft Windows Vista

 

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