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Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday ventured further into the complex world of software licensing, making some changes and adding new features to its programs.

Wednesday’s fifth quarterly Volume Licensing Webcast to customers and partners was led by Brent Callinicos, who assumed the role of corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Licensing and Pricing group earlier this year.

Callinicos said the limited Enterprise Edition Step-Up License promotion would be made a permanent offering in Microsoft’s Worldwide Volume Licensing programs.

The Enterprise Edition Step-up License was originally offered as a one-year promotion on September 1, 2003. Customers with Software Assurance, an Enterprise Agreement, Select License or Open License Value could migrate from Standard Edition software to Professional or Enterprise Edition software while maintaining their Software Assurance coverage on a given product.

“The Step-up License remains available in order to make it easier for customers to upgrade from a Standard to Enterprise Edition without incurring the full cost of licensing two separate editions of the software. Customers can upgrade their license as their company and needs grow,” Callinicos said.

More information on the Step-up License can be found here (in Word format).

Microsoft on Wednesday also officially launched its Product Licensing Website, a new resource that includes the company’s product list and product use rights documents.

This site gives customers information around licensing terms, conditions and supplemental information relevant to the use of products that are licensed through Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs in one place, he said.

Callinicos also provided more detail on Microsoft’s RMS (Rights Management Services), designed to control the digital distribution of documents, after his team received numerous and ongoing customer questions about information protection and policy enforcement.

“Software Assurance customers can currently take advantage of a promotion that is underway through the life of RMS 1.0 and purchase the RMS CAL (Client Access Licenses) and Software Assurance (SA) for ‘SA only’ pricing,” he said.

“Customers with current Core CAL licenses or Back Office licenses are also allowed to order this offering and customers may acquire a number of RMS CALs up to the number of Core CALs they have,” Callinicos continued.

Microsoft introduced last year its Rights Management Services solution. Earlier this year it was reported that while software vendors seemingly had been slow to back Microsoft’s RMS platform, that technology was coming to a host of third-party desktop and line-of-business applications—with or without the blessing of the app vendors themselves.

Some analysts now say that Microsoft’s licensing plans have turned the corner from the negativity and dissent that accompanied the release of its Licensing 6.0 and Software assurance plans in May 2001.

Microsoft executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer, have admitted that the changes contained in Licensing 6.0 and Software Assurance were poorly conveyed to customers by the company’s own sales and support teams.

Thinking of negotiating with Microsoft for a license? Read an interview with the author of the forthcoming Microsoft License Secrets book here.

A June research report (in PDF) from Laura DiDio, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group, found in a survey of 100 reseller partners that a compelling portion (40 to 60 percent) had bought SA, or planned to renew or upgrade their current Microsoft Licensing Agreements to include Software Assurance.

“This is a marked turnaround from the skepticism and resentment that greeted the program when it was introduced as a component of the Microsoft Licensing 6.0 Program in May 2001,” DiDio said. “At the time, many feared that Software Assurance would prove pricier than its predecessor, Upgrade Advantage. Customers feared their licensing and upgrade costs would double or triple. Those fears were largely unfounded.”

However earlier this year, eWEEK found that Microsoft was still facing pushback from volume licensees, especially those whose three-year Licensing 6.0 and Software Assurance plans were about to expire.

Click here to read more about customers’ search for value in Microsoft’s Software Assurance program.

That ill will was voiced despite the fact that Microsoft Worldwide Licensing Program executives had spent the past 18 months retooling Licensing 6.0, and Software Assurance, to provide more business value and benefits to corporate customers.

These benefits included the ability to spread payments over the 3-year term, free Home Usage Rights and free training vouchers.

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