Claiming lack of demand, Microsoft has announced plans to drop its licensing package for Office that allows for concurrent use of the suite's applications.
The Maintenance Plus and Upgrade Advantage Plus portions of its Select and Open license programs will be dropped on Dec. 1, according to Jacques Bablon, director of worldwide volume licensing at Microsoft.
"It's purely a business decision," Bablon said. "The concurrent licenses have been used less and less in the last two years."
Companies using the concurrent license will be allowed to keep their license until their current agreement expires.
The concurrent licenses allow large customers to have the ability to estimate a number of employees who will access Office off of a server simultaneously.
For example, if 200 users at a company with 800 total employees will use Office, the company can buy 200 licenses.
The licenses require software to monitor how many users are accessing the applications, and that procedure is getting too complicated and bothersome for customers, Bablon said.
Competitors and analysts have disputed Microsoft's characterization of the popularity of concurrent licenses.
"A large number of clients still find the concurrent use licensing model far more cost-effective than per-seat licensing," said Mary Welch, an analyst at the Gartner Group, in Stamford, Conn. "Also, users have already made the investment in license-monitoring tools necessary to track actual usage. At Microsoft's insistence, they were required to go out and create this infrastructure to track usage, then Microsoft takes away the option for which it was intended."
The move should not have been a surprise, said one IT manager, who requested anonymity.
"Microsoft has been tightening the screws on this for a long time," the manager said. "The last I heard, concurrent licensing was twice the standard cost and had limited appeal. Microsoft now appears to be eliminating even this."
The concurrent license scheme is attractive to companies that have a lot of mobile employees, or work at home, said an official at applications rival Corel, which offers concurrent licensing.
"We're providing a low total cost of ownership to customers, and we're providing flexible deployment options to customers who use the software in the office, at home, and on the road," said Mark Emond, manager of corporate and education sales programs at Corel.
What's in play
* To be discontinued Maintenance Plus/Upgrade Advantage Plus concurrent licenses, the right to run software on server or clients (metering software required).
* Applications affected Microsoft Office, Office Professional, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Project.