Thursday, July 18, 2013

Microsoft Planning to End TechNet Subscription

As has been widely reported, Microsoft recently announced that they were planning to cease the TechNet subscription service with effect from the end of August. This has to be about the daftest thing I’ve seen from Redmond in decades – arguably even worse than Bob, the Kin phone and Vista combined!

The TechNet subscription allowed subscribers to download ISO (or Exe) images of just about all the software Microsoft ships, albeit with some notable gaps like no developer tools (Visual Studio). You also get licenses that allow you to install this software and do long term testing and evaluation. I have used the  subscription for over 15 years (I was one of the very first TechNet subscribers in the UK – although in the early days, there was no software just lots of information that later transferred to the web).

With the TechNet subscription, I get an affordable way to obtain non-crippled software and could install it and use it. I could test things out and learn more about the products and how they interoperate. I know hundreds of others value this ability, which Microsoft has now decided to do away with. The only alternative way of getting this software would be via an MSDN subscription – but MSDN is significantly more expensive and I’ve heard that this cost is going up significantly.

Microsoft is staying that rather than use full use software, we should use evaluation software. That simply doesn’t work since if nothing else there is a much more restrictive time span on the software. Projects lasting a year for example would be scuppered as most evaluation products time out after 6 months.

Frankly, without this sort of low cost source of legitimate and legal software, I’m certain that many will just turn to the black market – it’s about as easy to find boot leg keys as to log onto the TechNet site and get the legal keys! Now let’s be clear – I do not condone pirating of software. But with the removal of a low cost option, piracy, and casual piracy, will only increase. And, for a company that is concerned with what people thing, this move will only make Redmond appear greedy and unhelpful towards the legions of IT Pros that advocate and deploy Microsoft software.

Almost as bad was the cynical way the announcement was made. It was issued at the start of the week of July 4th when a lot of Americans and a lot of management in Redmond, was out on holiday, and the week before the Partner conference. The timing was great – get the bad news out when no one was around to react in Redmond (except with canned statements about how IT Trends and business dynamics have changed’. I can’t help feeling some marketing bod decided to send the announcement like this meant most folks would be away and would not notice till it was too late. Microsoft should know better than to act like this – even the UK’s Labour party found out this approach generates a lot of negativity.

Speaking personally, I mailed Steve Ballmer to complain and have urged others to do so. Frankly, he’s about the only person with the ability to stop the stupidity. A US chap, Cody Skidmore, has created an online petition:

If you care about this – and all IT Pros really should, then can you do three things:

1. Email SteveB@Microsoft and ask him to abort the service’s demise.

2. Sign the petition. As of the time this article is being written, the petition has attracted over 5000 signatures and is getting more every minute. Please add your name to this list.

3. Talk to any journalists you know and ask them to talk up the issue and talk up reinstating the subscription.

This is about the dumbest thing I’ve seen from Redmond since Joe Lindstrom tried to kill the MVP programme. I hope the outcome here is the same (we still have MVPs). But please – get involved and act now before it is too late.

Finally: Please Steve, rethink this. Do the right thing and reinstate the programmne. If you need more email to make that decision, just say the word. If email is what it takes, the community can provide that.

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