Kerstin Baxter, director of Microsoft's partner group, said in the keynote address at this week's Sydney partner briefing that the Open License Value (OLV) option will be available to Software Assurance end-users with five to 250 PCs from 1 October.
OLV is a subset of the Open License program, which includes Open Business and Open Volume, allowing customers to buy License and Software Assurance combined, or just Software Assurance.
Open License Value's main advantage is that it enables small to mid-size business licensees to spread their annual licence payments over three years, Baxter said.
Lorraine Cowan, category manager for software and networking at major distributor Tech Pacific, said she was “very supportive” of the introduction of OLV, which she believed over time could significantly increase customer acceptance for the Microsoft licensing program.
“We're not expecting any dramatic changes in buying behaviour initially. In the first year or two, we expect [buying] to be conservative, but I think over the next two to three years this program will continue to grow and be a very strong offering,” she said.
Tech Pacific's stable of resellers had consistently requested the chance for customers to spread their licensing payments, Cowan said.
Microsoft's Baxter said end-users will still contact Microsoft Software Advisors, but licensing applications and multi-year billing will be handled by Authorised License Provider (ALP) distributors.
She said Tech Pacific is one of only three Australian distributors awarded the Authorised License Provider (ALP) designation for the program. ALPs, as “key volume distributors” aggregate the orders made via designated Microsoft Software Advisor (MSA) resellers, which can get a 10 percent rebate per customer, she said.
“Probably many of our licensees today are making less than 10 percent in terms of margin,” Baxter said.
However, Cowan said spreading licence payments will make more work for Tech Pacific. “We'll have to make sure the administration is set up from the back end as it's definitely a more complex admin task for a distributor such as ourselves but...I think it'll be worth it long term,” Cowan said.
Brad Colledge, licensing solutions manager at large account reseller and system integrator Data#3, said he couldn't see any down side to OLV. Data#3 customers had inquired about OLV since late last year when the option was introduced in the US, according to Colledge.
“The interest is there,” he said. “It's like a mini-enterprise agreement in a way, making available [a payment model that] was previously only available to larger companies.”
OLV would provide a level of flexibility in Microsoft software licensing for smaller companies, through the existing MSA and ALP designations, that previously wasn't available, Colledge said.
Thomas Kablau, licensing marketing manager at Microsoft, said customers could, under OLV, choose to roll payments for any additional licences into the annual payment plan set up with their initial licence purchase. “So because there's a low up-front payment, you can buy more,” he said. “The other change is there is a company-wide option. In the enterprise space, if the customer commits to rolling it out to the desktops in the organisation they can get it for a better price.”
He said a customer promising to put Office, Windows Professional or a core client access bundle on all his or her company desktops with Software Assurance would get a 10 percent lower price. If the customer puts all four on his or her desktops, Microsoft offers a 25 percent better price, Kablau said. Open Business and Open Volume will remain available to customers wishing to have a two-year agreement and make license-only payments.
Open License Value was made available to US-based Microsoft users in March but introduction had been delayed indefinitely in Australia. In the US, the payment option lets SMBs with up to 750 seats make annual repayments, save on licensing costs and get upgrade rights via Software Assurance.
Baxter also told the briefing about some other changes targeting Australian business partners, such as improved support. A priority telephone support number will let business partners jump the queue when making support calls. “We've had a number of complaints saying [partners] don't know who to ask or where to get the information [for post-sales support especially],” she said.
Baxter said Microsoft had introduced one phone number--13 20 58 and press 4; and one email firstname.lastname@example.org, for all partner issues. “You actually talk to a real person now. We've got rid of the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) options,” she said.
Alison Dodd, the new director of Microsoft's small and mid-market solutions partner group, said at the briefing that the coming year would have a “customer-partner connect focus”. “Strong focus this year is on what we call 'the connect', making sure we have the right partners in the right place,” she said.
“We're raising awareness about the products within the marketplace [by] continuing to invest in our partners and our customers, making sure that they have the right sales technical training, and marketing tools.”
Partners could expect to see more focus on specific verticals in Microsoft marketing, paying particular attention to the burgeoning market for Web services, Dodd told the partner briefing.