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Making Sense of Microsoft Licensing

Windows 8 screenshotWith Windows XP slated for retirement next year, many businesses are looking to adopt Windows 7 as a replacement.  What they may not realize, however, is that licensing for this operating system is actually more expensive than it is for Windows 8.

At first glance, this pricing may seem counter-intuitive.  Normally, we expect to pay more for the latest (and presumably greatest) products on the market.  The reason that this isn’t the case with Window’s operating system software is because of the complex nature of Microsoft’s licensing policies.

Because Windows 7 is now officially past it’s prime, it is no longer on sale through any of the traditional channels.  Currently, the only way to get your hands on it is to purchase a copy of Windows 8 with special “downgrade rights.”

There are many different licensing situations where downgrade rights come into play.  For example, if you buy a new PC for your business, you may want to downgrade it’s preloaded Office software to match what the rest of your employees are using.  Keeping everything consistent can greatly simply desktop management, reduce the amount of training you need to do and prevent compatibility issues with your old equipment and software.

On Microsoft’s side, however, maintaining old software requires a great deal of work.  As new technology emerges, they need to produce updates, security patches and hot fixes to support all of the users that are still hanging onto older products.  Unfortunately, this process becomes increasingly difficult over time as their legacy products grow increasingly outdated.

To counter these problems, many software developers are moving away from the old model of licensing by using a new cloud-based subscription strategy.  For example, instead of paying for your copy of Photoshop upfront, you can simply pay a small monthly subscription fee to get all of the latest upgrades and security fixes for your software automatically.  The software developer is therefore able to ensure that all of their users are using the same version of their software and the customer gets more affordable service overall.

Microsoft has taken steps in this direction with new products like Office 365, but it will take time before this model really takes off.  Though the old licensing model may have its flaws, it still offers a great deal in terms of flexibility that businesses may be reluctant to let go of.

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