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Wandering lonely as a clown...

Microsoft Licensing

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by , 16th May 2009 at 02:05 PM (3395 Views)
I thought that now would be a good time to put a post about licensing Microsoft software in schools. Considering many schools are approaching the end of their Schools Agreement, and with Becta's advice stating that the subscription based model involves over the top buy-out costs, and due to that involves vendor lock-in. Becta Publication

Combine that with the fact that Becta referred the whole issue to the Office of Fair Trading.

So, my trail started by compiling some numbers. I counted up where we would want to use each piece of Microsoft Software, and combined it with the fact that we would most likely be looking to do an update to Windows 7 when it is released (and Server 2008 R2).

Using these numbers I contacted a number of licensing companies, who gave me an array of pricing. This was where I was in for a shock.

I discovered that if I wanted to license under the Select agreement, we would be paying roughly £14k. This would provide us with Software Assurance until September, when the current Becta contract ends. To continue with the Software Assurance, we would then have to renew for a further 3 years, which using current prices would come to a further £10k.

So, there you have it. To buy licenses for our computers and be able to then update to Windows 7 when it comes out, we would end up paying a total of £24k!

Sure, this is cheaper than the potential £37.5k+ for the Schools Agreement, but it is ridiculous. There is no way a school the size of ours could possibly justify that cost. So, we are stuck paying over the odds on a yearly basis simply to be able to update to the next version of Windows when it comes out.

Some might ask, why not go down the Linux route? Well, the answer to that is simple - people are used to Windows. Changing, it transpires, would upset everyone, as they'd have to use new software across the school. ie. We're stuck because people would complain.

Never mind the fact that entire countries around the world have already switched their education systems to Linux, or that there are schools within the UK that already have done.

So there you have it. Microsoft have us over a barrel, to put it bluntly. We're going to look at the issue again this time next year, as the Select 3 year SA will be in force, meaning £10k will be knocked off the price, but we will have spent £7.5k this year, so will only actually save £2.5k.


  1. BrianG's Avatar
    I'm not sure Microsoft have us over a barrel. They are trying to make the best, most easy to use software available. Surely that is the aim of any company, to create a product that is successful and appealing to a wide market. The problem seems to lie with end users, who either can't or don't want to learn new software and a new OS. We have the same problem. I've been spending some time looking at Edubuntu for on of our primaries and the difficulty is getting hte staff to give it a chance, purely because it doesn't have a start button ! and that's only to be used in a small selection of classrooms, not school wide.
  2. localzuk's Avatar
    Sorry but MS do have us over a barrel. We're a small school (620 kids), with 2 years of primary kids, and 2 years of secondary. So our budget is not very large.

    To say that we can't afford the massive prices being quoted is an understatement.

    Changing teachers perceptions of anything new is difficult, not just an operating system. Introducing anything new, anywhere in a school results in the usual 'digging the heals in'. Microsoft are capitalising on this. Rather than providing us with a system we *want*, we are provided with a system that we're stuck with.
  3. SYNACK's Avatar
    I think that you are projecting in your above post localzuk. Surely it is the teachers that have you over a barrel. Microsoft is not forcing you to use their software, you have every opertunity to not pay for it and not use it. They will not send armed asult teams if you uninstall it, it is your users that are demanding it.

    Microsoft is not a charity, they are a business, you use their software and expect updates and security fixes. They expect to get money to keep paying their programmers to provide this.

    This is the bizzar thing that I don't get about some open source idealists, the idea that programers have no right to be compensated for their work. Are all developers supposed to work day jobs stocking shelves or something and then only develop in their spare time?

    You may not *want* the Microsoft system but your users obviously do and for better or (probably) worse you must cater for your users wants.

    If your quarrel is about any increase in pricing that has taken place that is valid but given the price of doing business in the EU area the rises are hardly unexpected as the EU fines its way out of its govenments debts one large company at a time.
  4. localzuk's Avatar
    The word here is 'vendor lock-in'. This is a term used throughout the world when discussing Microsoft. ie. they have worked actively over the last decade, using their position to force people to stay with what they produce - and leveraged that position to force their way into other markets (media players, web browsers). They have also been seen to be using tactics to prevent companies from using other OS's - ie OEM contracts that prevent companies from using other OS's. (Similar to the way Intel has just been fined for offering incentives for only using Intel chips).

    So, what we end up with is a situation where we have schools and businesses who are using their software due to earlier nefarious activity. And the users within those organisations are now so tied into it, they are reluctant to change, regardless of the benefits of other software.

    It'd be like getting someone to change the place they live, even if they were provided with a house which was twice the size, and half the price. People get used to something and don't like to change.
  5. Edu-IT's Avatar
    What would be the difference between a Schools Agreement and a Select Agreement?
  6. localzuk's Avatar
    A Select Agreement is a perpetual license. ie. You buy once, and that's it. Although, you can add Software Assurance (ie. the ability to update to new versions) to your select agreement, for a price.

    A Schools Agreement is a yearly subscription, based on the total number of machines in your school. Even if you only use the software on half of them, you still pay for them all.
  7. Edu-IT's Avatar
    Am I right in saying that a different schools agreement license is needed for 64-bit server installs?
  8. localzuk's Avatar
    Nope, you pay for a license for a version of windows not different bit levels of it.

    So, you buy a license for 'Windows Server 2003 Standard' you have a license for 32 and 64 bit versions.
  9. Edu-IT's Avatar
    I can't see 64-bit on the VLS site though.
  10. Edu-IT's Avatar
    I've found the discs for this sent by Microsoft.


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