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Microsoft this week rolled out expected enhancements to its Software Assurance (SA) annuity-licensing program.

Microsoft announced the planned changes to the SA program in September 2005.

The changes include new planning, deployment, migration and legacy services designed for volume licensees. Two of the new benefits – new Windows releases — are exclusive to Software Assurance customers and aimed at mid- to large-size enterprise customers. These two releases are the Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs “lean client,” due to ship in May, 2006, and the Windows Vista Enterprise version, expected in November, when the full Vista family is expected to ship.

Code-named “Eiger,” Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs is based on Windows XP. It is “designed to be a bridge solution” for getting the most out of older functioning Windows systems for customers who want more security, but who aren’t ready or able to upgrade to Windows XP, according to Microsoft officials.

Windows Vista Enterprise, one of the six core Windows Vista SKUs, will include all of the features of Windows Vista Business, plus BitLocker drive encryption; Virtual PC Express virtual-machine support; the Subsystem for Unix-based Applications (SUA), which is designed to allow Unix applications to run on Vista machines; and access to all worldwide languages supported by Vista via a single deployment image.

Another new benefit of the SA program is new Desktop Deployment Planning Services. These services take the form of a one- to ten-day organizational and “business value” planning session between customers and either Microsoft Certified partners or Microsoft Consulting Services.

For small-to-medium businesses, as part of SA, Microsoft is now offering Microsoft Information Work Solution Services, which are prepackaged consulting engagement services delivered by MS partners.

Microsoft also is offering a new automated Windows Preinstallation Environment tool; enhanced 24×7 problem support, with subscriptions to newsgroups, error reporting and cold backups for disaster recovery.

Other SA benefits include Extended Training: eLearning, Home Use, Employee Purchase and Enterprise Source License programs.

For additional information on the program, go to: