Q&A: Expanded Software Assurance Program Brings More Choice and Flexibility to Microsoft Customers

REDMOND, Wash., March 14, 2006 – Customers want to get more from their current IT investments. Mike Oldham is helping lead Microsoft’s efforts to make software licensing easier and enable organizations to empower their people to be more productive with the software they already use on a daily basis through the Software Assurance program.

Oldham, the new general manager of Marketing and Readiness for Microsoft’s Worldwide Licensing and Pricing group (WWLP), will join some of the company’s customers and industry partners as well as industry analysts from Gartner and the Yankee Group in a global webcast today to discuss how customers can take advantage of the new and expanded Software Assurance benefits. The LiveMeeting webcast broadcasts at 8a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific time and will be archived for on-demand replay at www.microsoft.com/licensing.

Initially announced in September 2005 to give Microsoft customers and partners ample time to plan ahead, these program enhancements are now available to Software Assurance customers. Today’s webcast offers a chance for customers to hear what their peers are saying about their experience with Software Assurance and how they plan to use latest benefits to get more out of their software investments.

PressPass recently asked Oldham about his commitment to help Microsoft evolve Software Assurance into an industry-leading maintenance offering that helps all sizes of organizations with deploying, managing and migrating software more successfully – at each stage of the customers’ software lifecycle.

PressPass: What do you hope to achieve with your new role in Worldwide Licensing and Pricing?

Oldham: When I came over to WWLP last October, after more than 14 years in sales and marketing in the Microsoft OEM Division, I saw an opportunity to have a deep impact by listening to customers and meeting their needs. I understand the painful issues they face. My goal is to apply that perspective toward shaping our group’s priorities and executing the top initiatives we’ve identified to help further simplify licensing and offer customers the right mix of choice and flexibility in our licensing programs

Probably the most significant contribution I can make is to ensure that we continue to enrich and evolve our offerings to best align with customers’ business needs.

PressPass: What are you hearing from customers about their current challenges with licensing and managing their software investments?

Oldham: Customers tell us they need services to help them more rapidly deploy Microsoft products as well as plan ahead for a smooth transition to the next wave of products, particularly the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system and the 2007 Microsoft Office System. We’re hearing that they also want to get more productivity and value out of their existing software, including assistance with maintaining those systems through deeper problem resolution support and more flexible training options.

For many companies, one of the biggest challenges is deploying new solutions cost-effectively, especially when the organization has three or four different versions of Windows running in its environment. It’s very costly to patch multiple versions and difficult to manage support for all of their applications running on different versions. These customers in particular are looking for clear guidance from Microsoft and its partners on how to safely and efficiency migrate their IT systems to Windows Vista when it arrives later this year.

PressPass:How has Microsoft Software Assurance evolved in response to what customers are asking for?

Mike Oldham, General Manager, Marketing and Readiness, Worldwide Licensing and Pricing Group

Oldham: Our number-one goal is to help customers gain the maximum value from investing in Microsoft products and services as they plan, deploy, use, maintain and transition between versions of their software. At each stage of this software lifecycle, we’ve developed benefits that address specific business challenges and empower people to succeed with Microsoft software.

We’ve not only enhanced the services and training benefits but also added several new benefits that scale to meet the diverse needs and sizes of our customers. That includes giving customers more flexibility to trade Software Assurance benefits in one area for additional benefits somewhere else, such as exchanging end-user training vouchers for additional planning or deployment help from Microsoft Consulting Services or a Microsoft Certified Partner.

PressPass: What specific benefits within Software Assurance are designed to meet customers’ deployment challenges?

Oldham: Microsoft Desktop Deployment Planning Services (DDPS) is a new offering for midsize to large customers that helps them identify the most cost-effective and agile approach to improving their current Windows and Office desktop environment. It’s a one- to 15-day engagement that typically involves onsite sessions with the customer’s deployment partner or a Microsoft Consulting Services expert who works closely with them on business analysis, process management planning, technical evaluation and architecture design to ensure a more successful deployment. They’re able to save costs and time in deploying new software that can make their people more productive and business more competitive.

We’ve also introduced Information Work Solution Services (IWSS), which provides one- or two-day collaborative planning workshops to help small to midsize customers tailor the capabilities of Microsoft Office to specific technology needs and increase productivity in their organizations. They get expert help from a partner who can examine the customer’s business and identify areas where the customer can gain greater value from their Office system software. For example, they can learn how to better protect information inside the organization using Office system features such as rights management services, improve their business processes using electronic forms through Microsoft Office InfoPath and increase employee self-service through portals built in Microsoft Office SharePoint.

PressPass: Which of the new Software Assurance benefits can customers use to meet their transition needs?

Oldham: Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs is a new offering designed to ease transition challenges for customers that are running older versions of Microsoft Windows and aren’t in a position to purchase new hardware. Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs is a new Windows-based operating system that provides the same security and manageability of Windows XP Service Pack 2.

PressPass: Why did Microsoft decide to offer exclusive technology within Software Assurance?

Oldham: As part of our commitment to add significant new value to Software Assurance, customers with as few as five PCs licensed under this program will also have exclusive access to Windows Vista Enterprise when it is expected to become available later this year. Software Assurance customers let us know they wanted enhanced features for data protection, application compatibility and worldwide deployment. Windows Vista Enterprise is a new edition of Windows designed to help corporate organizations lower the costs and improve the efficiency of deploying and managing their desktops. Windows Vista Enterprise includes Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption, which enhances the protection of sensitive data in cases where, for example, a customer’s laptop gets lost or stolen. In the application compatibility area, we are delivering Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (SUA), a set of features that eases the process of moving from a UNIX to a Windows environment. This offering includes a database of connectivity libraries and other tools to help customers easily recompile their UNIX applications to be fully interoperable with Windows, with little or no change to the original source code.

Windows Vista Enterprise also includes Virtual PC Express, which provides a safe way to migrate legacy applications during an operating system upgrade by allowing the customer to run these applications on a legacy operating system in a single, virtual machine. Software Assurance customers are receiving Virtual PC Express early so they can start addressing their current application compatibility needs prior to the release of Windows Vista Enterprise.

PressPass: What other new and expanded Software Assurance benefits will be especially valuable for customers?

Oldham: Another way we’ve improved the way customers connect with us is by expanding the scope of our 24-by-7 problem resolution support. This includes around-the-clock phone support for business-critical outages affecting all products that are eligible for Software Assurance, as well as unlimited Web support for Standard and Enterprise edition servers. We’ve made this phone support easier to use, and customers can authorize any number of their employees to use it. Where there previously was some potential overlap between 24-by-7 support in Software Assurance and the benefits that Premier licensing customers receive, we’ve resolved it by giving those customers more leeway to transfer Software Assurance phone incidents to their Essential or Premier support agreements.

Lastly, we have increased the maximum number of Software Assurance training vouchers that companies can receive from 165 to 2,100 in order to open more opportunities for even the largest organizations to build their employees’ skills.

PressPass: What role do Microsoft’s industry partners play in the expanded program, and where do you see the greatest business opportunities for these partners?

Oldham: Partners have always been Microsoft’s best and most prevalent channel for providing software to customers. Knowing that our partners have deep firsthand expertise and knowledge of customer needs, we want to put them in the best position to diversify their business and provide them with greater opportunities to work even more closely with customers through Software Assurance. Particularly with the training vouchers, Desktop Deployment Planning Services and Information Work Solution Services, our partners have the lead role in educating and guiding customers in how maximize the value of their Microsoft products.

PressPass: What resources is Microsoft putting in place to help customers determine if Software Assurance is a good fit for their organization?

Oldham: We offer an online tool called Microsoft Product Licensing Advisor that guides customers through the process of selecting Microsoft products, comparing different Volume Licensing program options and calculating the estimated retail pricing for the software in a downloadable report. Using this information, customers can more easily tell what type of agreement is best for their business, including which specific Software Assurance benefits they can receive.

Another online resource, the Forrester Software Assurance ROI Tool, can help customers determine their financial rate of return based on the Microsoft Software Assurance benefits they use. From studying the Total Economic Impact of the Microsoft Software Assurance program, Forrester Research developed a business case analysis tool that shows the value of the Software Assurance benefits that customers could expect to gain. This tool will be updated to reflect the newest Software Assurance benefits by June of this year.

Both of these resources also are designed to complement the tremendous expertise of our partners in helping customers choose the best licensing solution for their business. For more information, customers can register for a series of upcoming webcasts on how to activate and use their Software Assurance benefits by going to www.sawebcasts.com.

Customer, Partner Response

Business customers and partners are applauding the new Software Assurance benefits that Microsoft announced in September 2005.

Software Assurance has evolved to provide a package of more than 17 benefits that customers can use throughout each phase of the software lifecycle. Microsoft partners are finding that not only does this maintenance program deliver unique value to their customers, but it also provides them with new opportunities:

Lucy New, global category manager for Atos Origin, a global management consulting and IT services firm, specialized in business and technology integration:

The new support enhancements to Software Assurance have “really given us some value… We can earn Premier Support incidents by the amount that we spend and invest in our Software Assurance.  Now that we don’t need to think about what server’s covered for what products and what goes with what… it’s much easier.  The Software Assurance benefits are really contributing to the support function without making it more complicated.”

Greg Vigil, director of global enterprise collaboration for Gates Corp., manufacturer of belts, hose and hydraulics:

“It (Software Assurance) is a holistic package with a number of tools and features that we do need from our technology providers, and we find it of great benefit to be able to get those all together in the Software Assurance package.

Curt Wheadon, global vice president of operating environments and messaging for Dimension Data, a specialist IT services and solution provider that helps clients plan, build and support their IT infrastructures:

“The actual (Desktop Deployment Planning Services) sessions themselves involve things like Discovery and Assessment phase, where we really take a look at what the client’s environment looks like today and what their to-be environment should look like, as well as a strategic assessment that begins to answer questions about how they can really recognize the business value in the assets they’ve bought and bring these to bear as soon as possible.”