Monday, August 10, 2009

Microsoft Licensing Rant

<Begin Rant>

It’s always nice when you pay a vendor top dollar for product and then have them slap you in the face with their licensing restrictions and complicated activation processes.  I fondly remember my first run-in with this nonsense…the dongle.  As in “the dongle that broke Autocad’s back.”  (For those of you that remember, way back when… Autocad required a dongle. Their sales dropped significantly as users shied away from their systems to use alternatives that weren’t hobbled with software protection.)

I’ve been reviewing the changes in Microsoft’s Volume Licensing procedures and the whole process still strikes me as a sign that Microsoft has lost as much confidence in their customers as their customers have lost in them.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that for commercial software vendors to work and make a buck they should be paid.  However, hamstringing customers that are actually paying the bill is like a waiter spitting in your food as he hands it to you because you “might” run out before you pay the check.

So it turns out that very little has changed with Microsoft licensing.  They still force you to use KMS (and have your pc check in every 180 days) or MAK (and burn a license that can never be recovered should you ever have need to rebuild the box from the ground up).

They give these examples of why this is process is “good” for you:

  • It reduces the risk of running counterfeit software.  Um…s’cuse me but if I paid for it I did my part.  It’s Microsoft’s burden to hunt down counterfeit outfits not mine.  What they are really saying is it makes Microsoft’s job easier by making it harder (not impossible) for counterfeit software to exist.  Again…why am I paying for this, why do I have to do all this extra work setting up KMS servers and why is this my concern?
  • It assures that your copy of Windows is genuine. Once again…why do I care if I’ve already paid for it? What they are really trying to say is that we don’t trust you. To top that off if you aren’t running genuine software you don’t get to talk to Abu in India if you run into any problems with our software.  But…if you can prove to us that you actually paid for the software we will provide support to you by an untrained technician from another country in another time zone who talks with a thick accent and is sure to walk you through at least one reboot before kicking the call up to his buddy that had the 2 week training course.  Thanks. That makes me feel better.
  • Activation = Greater piece of mind. Um… No it doesn’t.  The ability to support my users around the world with software that’s not gonna nag them or spontaneously combust into a flurry of license warnings and reduced functionality= greater piece of mind. Wait..that’s not fair. They got rid of the reduced functionality part. Sorry.
  • Assists with license compliance.  Really? For licensing compliance I have to run multiple reports and then I have to compare what I bought to what the reports say.  Then I have to verify that my payments were for the right products and made on time. Then I have to verify that my KMS server or MAK proxy has a clear line of sight to Microsoft at all times so the whole kit and kaboodle doesn’t tip over while I’m worried actually getting non-licensing related work done. How is that assisting me again?

The product key way of doing licensing was bad, but these approaches are worse. They are harder to administer, more likely to leave users unable to work and a huge slap in the face of paying customers. 

On a final note, I bet that the restrictions on licensing in Windows 7 (and Windows Server 2008 R2 for that matter) will limit the amount of counterfeit installations.  I bet it also will help to sway businesses (especially ones that couldn’t afford Microsoft software anyhow) over to Open Source software solutions.  This has and will continue to be detrimental to the sales of Microsoft products.  That my friends is Technology karma at it’s best.

</End Rant>

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