- The worm wriggles
Is the worm, aka the New Zealand Microsoft customer, turning? Last week Auckland firm Infraserv complained about Microsoft to the Commerce Commission alleging anti-competitive behaviour.
Infraserv, which is the operations arm of law firm Clendon Feeney, made the complaint because it is unhappy with Microsoft's new licensing scheme, Software Assurance.
Clendon Feeney partner Craig Horrocks says Software Assurance, which kicks in on July 31, "is a mistake". And that's not all he says.
Under Software Assurance customers will pay two years in advance for the right to Microsoft software upgrades. This is regardless of whether or not Microsoft releases any upgrade within those two years. In the past customers have bought upgrades as they required them.
"What other supplier in the world, other than possibly government through taxation, can ask you to pay for something which is not defined and if nothing is delivered still claims you receive a benefit?" asks Horrocks. "Locking a customer into a two-year guaranteed income stream is much better than being reliant on customers deciding that an upgrade is good value before they spend their money. Being paid and not having to deliver anything is even better."
Infraserv is one of those creatures rarely seen in the New Zealand environment - a Microsoft customer bold enough to speak up against the company. Although commonly found in the US and other parts of the globe, this species is difficult to find on these shores. One other, spotted last year by weekly IT newspaper Computerworld, is insurance company NZI.
The road to Software Assurance has been a rough ride for Microsoft so far. It seems customers aren't taking the changes lying down. After howls of protests and threats of platform defections especially in the US and Europe, Microsoft pushed back the deadlines for joining its renovated licensing programme twice so organisations could build the cost of the programme into the following year's budgets.
Microsoft's reaction has been predicably bland. It says Software Assurance is designed to make licensing more simple and its happy to explain this to the Commerce Commission.
All eyes are on the oft-reticent Commerce Commission to see what it does – if anything. So far it has confirmed that it has received what it terms an "inquiry", which will be assessed to see whether it will be treated as a complaint.