Microsoft to Shut Down TechNet Subscription Service

TechNetSubShutDownThe service stops taking renewals on 2013-08-31.

In a letter to TechNet Subscribers today, Microsoft announced their intention to shut down the software subscription service. New subscriptions or renewals will not be taken after 2013-08-31. The service ends for subscribers when their subscription terms.

Thus ends a 15 year journey, which started in 1998 with a package of CD’s the size of Montana.

Historically, this has been the best deal in town for small businesses, fugal IT shops or anyone with a great deal of PC’s to maintain on a small budget. For $299 ($249 renewal) a year, TechNet Professional got you access to just about everything Microsoft had to offer, including consumer and enterprise versions of Windows, Windows Server and Office. With a small business of my own and up to 7 physical PC’s in my house, as well as any number of VM’s, TechNet Professional was the best way to get Microsoft Software.

The deal was a winner for me; but for Microsoft, it was an invitation to global piracy. Many users would simply purchase the subscription, grab all the keys they were entitled to for the numerous versions of the software they were given access to, and then sold them, at times with counterfeit media, to unsuspecting customers looking for a cheap deal of “genuine” software. Killing the TechNet service stops this flagrant form of piracy.

While it may help MS put a stop to piracy, for me, with potentially 8-10 MS powered PC’s in the house, it completely sucks.

If Windows goes to a subscription model, they better make it VERY affordable, otherwise, many PC’s, worldwide, in my opinion, will either NOT get upgraded OR will simply move to some form of Linux… if something else is needed. Open Office or Libre Office is also looking really good for those laptops and PC’s that don’t have mobile broadband or reasonable access to cloud based services like Google Apps, MS 365 or the upcoming iWork for iCloud.

TechNet’s shutdown is a good thing for MS as it cracks down on license abuse as well as piracy; but its also a huge win for open source products as many consumers will likely take harder looks at them if they decide to upgrade existing PC’s to newer operating systems and newer office suites.

It also lends additional credibility to alternative PC’s – tablets and smartfphones – and the Office compatible software available for those devices. That software is traditionally much more affordable, and this only creates incentive for users to move to that form of economically affordable computing .

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Are Software Subscriptions a Good or bad Idea for Consumers?

Simply put, it depends.  Value can be found at the consumer level, but you have to read and understand the EULA (end user license agreement) and if you need to be online before you buy-in.

Software subscriptions work in the enterprise and work for software companies, but may or may not work for consumers. Value for the end user depends on how the vendor licenses the software, and if you have to be connected to the internet in order to use it. Most people won’t care if, in the long run they feel they’re getting some reasonable level of value out of the recurring cost.

Many consumers never read an end user license agreement or EULA. Ever.  In many cases, even software users were required to activate has been installed on more than one PC, regardless of whether additional installs violate the licensing agreement, simply because the software was considered too expensive. Versions of Microsoft Office from Office 95 to Office 2010, fall in this category. Its one of the biggest reasons why MS has opted to switch to a subscription model for future Office sales.

office365

The key to successful consumer adoption, however, is how the licensing is written.  I have found that most people are honest and will buy software instead of pirate it; but the licensing associated with any particular title is often very confusing.  Many people have more than one computing device; and will want to use software they purchase where ever and with whatever they’re computing with.  As long as the licensing allows them to install it where they need it, and the subscription costs aren’t too high; and/or don’t exceed what a consumer would pay for the software at retail, then I don’t see why a user find a subscription model acceptable. However, where and how the software is installed may also be an issue.

My biggest concern is where and how the software is used.  Subscriptions for some software may require an online connection to a subscription validation server in order for the software to work.  If I HAVE to be online every time I want to use the software that may be a problem. Internet access and mobile broadband are in a lot of places, but aren’t everywhere. If I want to use it someplace where I don’t have a connection and the software won’t start, then the subscription model is broken. The cloud isn’t everywhere, and I may not be everywhere the cloud is. Software vendors moving to a subscription sales model need to address this in some way to insure that I can use what I’ve paid for, even when I’m disconnected.

I also want the software installed locally and don’t want to HAVE to use an online version like Google Apps or Office 356 Online, again, for the same reasons. I don’t want to HAVE to be tied to the cloud or an always on network connection in order to be able to use something I’ve purchased. Once mobile broadband is ubiquitous, this may be a non-issue, but until then, it may be an issue for some, especially in areas where connectivity is spotty.

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