Software licensing. As home users, it’s already an incomprehensible mess of legalese that nobody cares one bit about. However – we home users have it easy. The situation for business users and people managing IT departments is even worse (proprietary software, mostly, of course). Microsoft is a major culprit in this regard, and while the company acknowledges that the situation is messy, they claim they can’t really do anything about it.
Today, Microsoft held an event in London (the England one) where Steve Balmer addressed a crowd about all things Microsoft. He received a question from a member of the audience, who questioned him about Microsoft’s complicated licensing policies – to great applause from the crowd.
Ballmer was frank, and acknowledged that there are problems with Microsoft’s licensing policies. He said that Microsoft’s fine print certainly has its ‘gotchas’, but that his people should not harass companies about these gotchas. “I’m sure we have fine print we don’t need. We’re not saints,” he said.
However, it’s not something the company will solve any time soon. “I don’t anticipate a big round of simplifying our licensing,” Ballmer told the audience. The problem is that the fine print also gives a lot of customers to ability to get Microsoft’s software cheaper than without that fine print. “Customers always find an approach which pays us less money,” he claimed.
“Every time you simplify something, you lose something that people used to save money,” he added, “The goal is to simplify without a price increase. Our shareholders want simplicity without a price decrease.”
This does seem like a hole Microsoft kind of dug for itself. If the company had kept licensing simple and straightforward from the get-go, it wouldn’t be in the situation it is in now, where the company can’t simplify licensing because some of its customers depend on the licensing being complex.