One of my biggest, most important responsibilities in my day job is ensuring that we have purchased all of software licenses that we require. It's my job to ensure that we are 100% legal at all times - which fulfills one of our corporate goals to be a completely ethical company.
Most companies make it very simply for me and my staff. If I want to license Norton Antivirus, all I need to do is count number of machines on which product is to be installed, write up a purchase order and call salesperson to order product. It works same with Conversion Plus, Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, WinZIP and any of other hundreds of products that we require to keep our company in business.
You would think that Microsoft would want to make it easy for people like me to give them money. I know that if I were in their shoes that's what I would do.
I should stop for a minute and explain that I love many Microsoft products. Windows 2000 (server and professional) are very solid, well-thought-out operating systems, and Office 2000 suite is easily best in industry. Internet Explorer is far superior to Netscape and has been for several years now, and Visio 2000 is one of most versatile flowcharting tools available anywhere.
Unfortunately, purchasing and licensing Microsoft products is nowhere near as pleasurable as using their office suite. My god, they make it so difficult to purchase licenses that I've often considered (especially recently) switching entire company to Unix and WordPerfect just to simplify my life.
Okay, let's take Office suite of products. In a sane world, you would do this one of three ways:
- You could just buy everything (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and so on)
- You could purchase "base" kit, then purchase additional licenses for pieces that you needed. For example, spend $75 on base, then add $40 for Word, and perhaps $10 for PowerPoint, and then don't purchase Access. This could all be done with a licensing key.
- Just purchase each piece separately.
Naturally, Microsoft didn't choose any of these methods. What you have instead is a number of "suites", each a different mix of products. For example, if you just need Word and Excel, you could purchase Office Standard. If, on other hand, you also need Access, then you need to purchase Office Premium. To make matters even worse, depending upon how many of each product you want to purchase you can use different discount scales.
It's enough to make one pull his hair out in frustration. But wait, it gets even worse with operating systems. You want Windows 2000 server, then you need to purchase a license for server, a license for each workstation (Windows 2000 Professional) and a Client Access License (CAL) for each workstation that needs to access a server. And, of course, depending upon how many of each you buy you get a different discount scale.
Oh, we're not finished yet. You also have choice of ordering Backoffice, which contains many of server products sold by Microsoft. It may (or may not) be cheaper to get one Backoffice license than, say, an Exchange license, a SQL license and a Windows 2000 server license. Then you've got to remember if you purchase Backoffice or separate products for your server in order to purchase either Backoffice CALs or individual CALs for each product. And, of course, each product has it's own discount scale depending upon how many you purchase.