Expanded Benefits in Microsoft Software Assurance Deliver Support Across All Phases of Customers’ Software Lifecycle

REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 15, 2005 – Speaking earlier this summer about his company’s strategies for future growth, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer cited a host of upcoming product releases – ranging from new versions of Microsoft Office to the Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn” operating systems to Microsoft SQL Server 2005 – with broad appeal for business customers.

As part of its efforts to help organizations prepare to evaluate and implement this next major wave of new technologies, the company is significantly enhancing the benefits available to customers who invest in the Microsoft Software Assurance maintenance offering. Microsoft senior executives, partner representatives, customers and industry analysts outlined the details of these new and expanded Software Assurance benefits during a global webcast hosted by group Vice President Kevin Johnson. The webcast will air today (Sept. 15, 2005) at 12 midnight, 8:00 a.m., 12 noon and 6:30 p.m. Pacific time, and will be archived for on-demand viewing at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing.

Software Assurance is a maintenance offering, available through Microsoft Volume Licensing, that assists organizations with deploying, managing and migrating software solutions more successfully, and that enables organizations to focus on driving business results. Software Assurance includes a range of resources and benefits focused on helping customers gain greater business productivity and operational efficiency from their Microsoft software. Microsoft executives say the overall offering now delivers even greater choice and flexibility for customers to fulfill their business needs throughout every stage of the software lifecycle: plan, deploy, use, maintain and transition.

“Since its inception four years ago, we’ve regularly fine-tuned Software Assurance in response to feedback from our customers and partners, who have helped us determine that we need to further infuse this offering with additional services and support,” says Brent Callinicos, Microsoft corporate vice president of Worldwide Licensing and Pricing. “We’ve substantially revamped the Software Assurance offering with new benefits that we believe IT professionals will find even more relevant and accessible in helping their organizations drive business results with Microsoft solutions.”

“With these eight new and enhanced benefits, from new deployment planning services to technology upgrades to materially enhanced support and training,” adds Callinicos, “we are striving to offer one of the best maintenance offerings in the industry. Software Assurance will go even further to help customers focus on what matters most: better control over planning and costs, increased productivity and less downtime, easy migration, and investing in the intellectual horsepower of IT teams.”

New Vouchers and Services Provide On-Site Deployment Help

New Software Assurance benefits that support the deployment stage of the software life cycle include a Desktop Deployment Planning Services voucher that customers with either Select or Enterprise license agreements can redeem for an onsite consulting engagement of up to 10 days – based on the volume of Microsoft Office software that is licensed with Software Assurance. This engagement includes education on the latest technology and tools for deploying desktop software applications, as well as a customized desktop deployment plan for the organization by a Microsoft Certified Partner of the customer’s choice.

“Our mid-sized customers told us that they use a variety of our technologies today, and while satisfaction is high, they are looking for new ways to use our products together to help maximize employee productivity, lower costs, and better serve their customers,” says Jeff Raikes, group vice president of the Information Worker Group at Microsoft. “To address this, Software Assurance will now include Information Work Solution Services for our Open Value customers.”

Information Work Solution Services are pre-defined service offerings delivered by Microsoft Consulting Services or Microsoft Certified Partners to help customers get even more value from investments in the Microsoft Office system. They include a one-day Information Work Value Discovery Workshop that helps business people develop a prioritized list of projects that will have the greatest impact and lowest risk on their business. They also may include a two-day Information Work Architecture Design Session that helps IT specialists and technical decision-makers understand the architecture required to implement those solutions. Together, these services will help midsize customers prioritize and implement Information Work solutions and increase the return on their IT investments

“This feature alone could save an IT shop thousands of dollars just in terms of personnel hours” as a result of learning how to more rapidly and easily deploy a new version of Microsoft Office,” says Laura Didio, a Yankee Group research fellow who participated in today’s Software Assurance webcast. “What’s more, Desktop Deployment Planning Services can enable IT staffs to do smoother, more efficient upgrades with fewer errors and less down time.”

Exclusive Access to Windows Vista Enterprise and Additional Solutions to Support the Hardware Lifecycle

Customers with Software Assurance on their client operating system will have access to Windows Vista Enterprise, a new edition of the next generation of the Windows operating system scheduled for final release in 2006 with the full Windows Vista product line, and to Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (formerly code-named “Eiger”), a new Windows-based operating system solution designed to help customers reduce the total cost of ownership and improve security and manageability of their legacy hardware. Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs is designed for customers with legacy PCs running legacy operating systems who are not in a position to purchase new hardware. Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs provides customers with the same security and manageability as Windows XP SP2. It also provides a smooth migration path to a fully functional current Windows operating system when customers are ready to refresh their hardware.

Windows Vista Enterprise is a new edition of Windows, available exclusively to Software Assurance customers, that is designed to help corporate customers lower desktop infrastructure costs and improve IT efficiency. Windows Vista Enterprise helps protect sensitive data and intellectual property on lost, stolen or recycled PCs by taking advantage of enabling hardware technologies. It includes all worldwide Windows languages, which makes the task of maintaining a single, global system image for PC hardware easier and less expensive. Windows Vista Enterprise also provides a safe, efficient way to migrate legacy applications during an operating system upgrade. Virtual PC Express, a feature of Windows Vista Enterprise, lets customers run legacy applications on a legacy operating system in a single, virtual machine. In an effort to help customers facing current application compatibility needs, Microsoft is making this Virtual PC Express feature of Windows Vista Enterprise available to Software Assurance customers prior to the release of Windows Vista Enterprise.

“Windows Vista Enterprise will be available exclusively to our Software Assurance customers, which gives them major advantages in terms of driving down the overall cost of PC deployment and management in sophisticated IT environments,” says Michael Sievert, corporate vice president of Windows Product Management.

In addition to the new Windows Vista Enterprise, Virtual PC Express and the Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs benefits, Software Assurance customers with 30,000 or more Information Worker or Client licenses will receive additional vouchers for IT professionals that can be used for training in selected courses from Microsoft Certified Partners for Learning Solutions (CPLS). Microsoft also has increased the cap on the number of training vouchers a customer can receive to provide additional flexibility, as well as scale to better meet the needs of larger organizations.

“Customers are always asking for more training to increase the support capabilities of their IT staffs,” notes Belynda Talbott, Microsoft solutions development manager for Amherst Technologies, a Microsoft Large Account Reseller partner. “Microsoft’s willingness to answer that call by raising the cap on training vouchers for enterprise companies is further evidence of its commitment to continue adding value to the Software Assurance benefits.”

“The newest offerings also present “a great opportunity for us, as partners, to provide more value behind Microsoft products to our customers,” Talbott says. “Microsoft is adding to ease of management, ease of budgeting and support for the corporate world in everyday business.”

Technical Support 24×7

Software Assurance aims to help customers maintain their Microsoft technology platform with around-the-clock phone support to resolve business-critical outages. This benefit covers all Microsoft server products, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office system. Customers also are no longer required to track their Software Assurance coverage by licenses in order to use phone support. Unlimited Web support is included for all Microsoft server products with Software Assurance coverage, and this support will be extended to include Open Value customers in addition to Enterprise and Select customers.

“We’re adding great new value to our Software Assurance technical support benefit at no additional cost,” says Andy Lees, corporate vice president of Server Tools and Marketing at Microsoft. “This brings our customers three of the things they say they want most: 24×7 problem-resolution support for dealing with business-critical support needs, coverage of all the Microsoft software in their organizations, and seamless integration between Software Assurance and Premier Support problem-resolution incidents.”

Annual Fee Included, Sign-Up Period Waived for Extended Lifecycle Hotfix Support

Software Assurance Lifecycle

To ease the transition stage of a company’s software lifecycle, Software Assurance now provides greatly expanded and lower-cost coverage for Microsoft products that have transitioned from the Mainstream Support period – typically, the first five years of a product’s lifespan – into the Extended Support period. As of July 1, 2005, the annual fees to obtain an Extended Hotfix Support Agreement (EHSA) have been included as part of the Software Assurance benefit. Extended Lifecycle Hotfix Support enables customers to receive code-fixes when needed which minimizes migration risks and reduces support costs.

“For Software Assurance customers, we’ve eliminated the deadline for signing the agreement, which traditionally is 90 days after a product moves from Mainstream to the Extended Support,” says Rick Devenuti, senior vice president, Microsoft Services & IT. “This will offer customers the additional flexibility and the cost savings they have requested. Customers will only pay for the hotfix itself when needed.” Plus, Microsoft has recently expanded the Extended Lifecycle Hotifx Support benefit to cover Microsoft Office Professional and Microsoft Windows client in addition to server products.”

“The reality for many companies is that they have many different versions of Windows running in their organizations,” says Amy Konary, director for Software Pricing, Licensing and Delivery research at IDC. “The changes to Microsoft’s Extended Hotfix Support Agreement should remove some hurdles for customers moving from mainstream to extended support, plus help them save time and money.”

Simpler Maintenance for Customers and Partners

Microsoft organized today’s webcast to ensure its customers and partners have ample time to plan ahead for implementing these benefits as part of their end-of-year budgeting processes. “Now is an ideal time for current Software Assurance customers as well as prospective participants to contact their Microsoft account representative or a reseller partner for more details on how the benefits can maximize the value of their investments in Microsoft products and services,” says Allison Watson, vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft.

“Microsoft partners play a key role in ensuring our customers get the most out of their software investments,” Watson says. “The latest enhancements in Software Assurance are opening even more opportunities for partners to help with benefit activation, software deployment and training that can free up a customer’s IT staff to focus on driving better business results.”

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