Microsoft Unveils User Subscription License for Windows

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Forrest Silverman, Director of Client Services at NPI, a spend management consultancy focused on eliminating overspending on IT, telecom and shipping.

It’s no secret that trends in mobility and BYOD have tested Microsoft’s licensing models. But the vendor appears to be tackling the challenge head on with new options for volume purchasers. Recently, Microsoft announced Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS) – a subscription-based, per-user licensing option for its most popular productivity services. These include Windows, Office, Windows Server, Exchange and SharePoint.

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The news garnering the most attention is the debut of its User Subscription License (USL) for Windows, which will be available to enterprise customers on Dec. 1, 2014.

Up until now, Windows Enterprise Volume Licensing was only offered on a per-device basis. Under the per-device model, customers were required to purchase a Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license either separately or as part of Software Assurance (SA). The complexity and costs of these options drove many customers to create their own workarounds, which put often put them in a state of non-compliance.

Under the Windows USL, as long as Windows 8/8.1/7 Professional or Enterprise is licensed on a user’s primary device, it can be accessed from, and used on, an unlimited number of other devices. The Windows USL aims to give customers a licensing option that matches the way their users actually work – especially for those enterprises using virtualization.

These changes from Microsoft are a direct response to customers’ demands for less licensing complexity and more support for multi-device workers. There are some other factors at work as well.

Cost: Of course, we can assume these new licensing options won’t be free. Pricing for the new USL option won’t be announced for a few more weeks, and it’s reasonable to expect that it will have a price tag.

Compliance: These options represent a clearer path to compliance for enterprises running Windows in a virtualized desktop environment – something Microsoft has struggled to provide to customers for some time. We can expect the vendor will be auditing more customers with virtual desktop environments to make sure they’re running Windows appropriately. Those that find themselves out of compliance will now have a remedy – and, going back to our first point, that remedy will most likely come at a cost.

Subscriptions: Microsoft is doing all they can to move customers from perpetual licenses to subscription-based licensing. This is one more move in that direction. Customers will undoubtedly feel this pressure applied in 2015.

All in all, will Microsoft ECS and USL be good news for enterprises? We’ll find out in a few weeks once pricing and other details – such as license transition policies - are announced.

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First Voice

  1. Larry Wells:

    Good to hear that Microsoft announced Enterprise Cloud Suite (ECS), a user subscription license for Windows which includes Windows, Office, Windows Server, Exchange and SharePoint. Great move by Microsoft and it’s under per-device model which gives more support for multi-device workers. Thanks for sharing!!

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