Software licensing must evolve, execs say

End users and vendors agree software licensing must change to accommodate economic and technology trends.

Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim Australia's IS manager Matthew Perry said software licensing schemes, particularly Microsoft's 6.0 subscription-based model, don't meet his business needs.

There is too much business risk in being exposed to unlicensed software, Perry said, but was sceptical about vendors that called for licensing changes at a conference in the US earlier this month, unless it involves "getting customers onto current versions of their products" as a condition for including maintenance.

"From the end of last year we were forced to upgrade from Office 97 - a version which was completely adequate for us - to Office XP. On a global scale this also had to happen and with about 50,000 people, it ended up costing us a fortune," Perry said. "Internationally, a lot of stuff had to be coordinated, like data compatibility, to get things like Access and Excel documents compatible between users at different sites," he said.

Perry argued that vendors also need to streamline the way they audit software usage among customers. "Microsoft was on the phone to [us] a few times a month pestering staff over how many software licenCes the business had in place and what versions it was running," Perry claimed. "Earlier this year I was getting calls from what seemed like every division, asking how many servers and people we had. But our other vendors like Cognos and Siebel are a lot more normal when they audit."

Perry said software vendors seem to introduce changes to their licensing schemes faster than customers can digest them.

However, an increasingly mobile workforce has made licensing a sticky area as vendors try to accommodate technology trends.

Perry said for organisations like his own, which has 300 employees, there is no real business case for introducing major software implementations on handhelds yet.

"We're looking at installing Blackberry (wireless e-mail solution) on some of our wireless devices but those would be cut-down versions of those applications. Licensing business apps on PDAs is only really suited to the very high end," he said.

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