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OP/ED       print

Dumping the Licensing Chaos with Linux -

Dumping the Licensing Chaos with Linux
by Mark Rais, OPINION/EDITORIAL section.

Our other related OP/ED postings include:
Linux Not Cause of Microsoft's Downfall
Microsoft's Approach May Isolate U.S. Permanently

I'm writing this brief article to point out that there really is a lot of monkeying around in the world of software licensing.

To begin with, let me share some of the concerns raised regarding the various Microsoft licenses. This is not to say that your organization or any other should just throw out the baby with the bath water and move on to wholesale removal of current licensing. No. I'm a realist and won't even try to sell you that bridge.

But we should at least take a quick look at two key items.

First, let's take a brief glance at the world you and I live in regarding Microsoft licensing. Let's uncover some of the reasons we keep seeing banana peels lying around. Let's try to figure out why there's a strange stench coming from the IT office space down the hall - and prove that the smell is not just burned microwave popcorn.

Second, let's then take a quick look at the licensing necessary to INTEGRATE Linux. Nay, not to migrate, but simply to integrate.

Microsoft Vista is heading in and this is a very opportune time to review licensing schemes.


If you are like most IT leaders and working your tail off day to day, you may have missed something rather odd going on in the back cages. Let's look to see if there is some monkey business.

First, Microsoft licensing schemes and their complexity don't just add up to a management challenge. True, for some they also add a management headache. But most importantly, the complex licensing schemes also can add up to higher costs.

This isn't some little fib, nor is it something new. Let's reach way back to the good ol' days of 2000 and remind ourselves.

Joe Wilcox, in an article for, summarized the 2000 Gartner analysis report with some powerful quotes. It was the Gartner report that pointed out that the Microsoft Licensing schemes were overly complex. The overview includes great quotes, such as:

"By contrast, Microsoft is telling customers it's not that simple. The
software that comes on their computers and the software that is part
of their software image are covered by separate license contracts."

The net result - many companies were paying DOUBLE fees!

The CNet article continues:

"Microsoft uses changes in licensing terms and conditions to increase the amount of money organizations pay for their products"

I must admit the point is nicely put. And has anything changed?

Today, nearly six years later we see the same kind of thing going on.

Andy McCue quite poignantly noted in his article:

"Delays to the release of new
Microsoft software such as Windows Vista has left them [MS customers]
without upgrades they have effectively paid for"

We're talking about Microsoft's own customers basically paying more for licensing than they potentially even need to because the complexity is so darn - complex!

Licensing is now so complicated that Microsoft has a nifty on-line tool (Microsoft Product Licensing Advisor) to help people weed through and find the right volume licensing!

I'm reading more and more regarding a number of big shakeups and flare ups with Microsoft's SA licensing. Some IT people don't seem at all happy with the changes.

And it's not just Microsoft's SA licensing that's complex and rather disliked, even among the general IT community.

In the article above, from ZDNet, well titled Revised Microsoft licensing gets muted reaction, the reality is that MS isn't fairing well even with existing customers.

The Counter Response

Organizations and government bodies are starting to bite back. Recently announced is the UK education licensing re-evaluation. I have to wonder whether the aggressive Microsoft pirating campaign that hit UK a few years back is not now just turning back to bite them?

You don't recall those wonderful stories of Microsoft checking for piracy in the UK school system? Here's a quick little reminder:

Remember that for every action there will be... ahh, you know it too!

Steve Ranger's recent article titled Review checks Microsoft licence lock in risk for schools makes this point too.

Pay careful attention to the quote by the chief executive of the company performing the review for UK:

"for products which are 'free' to the education sector it makes sense to reduce barriers to uptake by 'pre-loading' such offerings."

His subtly put remark nevertheless hits hard to ensure Open Source offerings get preloaded on systems.


So what if the UK is growing open minded about Open Source, letting people get away from that stench and get some fresh air in the open? It does not require a licensing lawyer to figure out what I can do with my latest release of Linux. I stick it in to the CD drive, install and move on.

What intensifies my passions even more is that good people are PAYING A LOT MORE THAN JUST CAPITAL EXPENDITURE COSTS as a result of such licensing. In some instances, people are getting fired while IT budgets drain away paying software licensing fees.

The Linux licensing landscape is nothing so complex at all. And using Linux offers a variety of options regarding business integration from full fledged desktops to the use of Thin-client terminals. Most importantly, we can all breath a bit easier avoiding reems of licensing papers, and instead focusing on our day to day jobs in IT.

If it saves some of us from headaches, reduces chaos, and simplifies life then good. If in the long run it ends up saving someone's job, then great!

With the advent of Vista rollouts and new licensing schemes, now may be an optimal time to look over the chaos of existing licensing schemes and do something about it.

This brief opinion piece should not be construed as factual information, and only contains the opinions and personal experiences of the author only at the time of publication. could not find information in this article that at the time of publication was inaccurate. However, the opinions and personal experiences that have been posted do not express the opinions of and are not endorsed in any way. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. IBM, PC-DOS, and OS/2 are the registered trademarks or trademarks of International Business Machines. Microsoft, Microsoft Service Agreement, Microsoft Windows are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners.

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