Angry Microsoft resellers have described the vendor's move to can its TechNet software trial and evaluation tool next month as a "kick in the teeth".
TechNet is a subscription-based programme designed to help resellers and IT professionals try out Microsoft software for evaluation and testing purposes. It is available as a benefit to resellers holding any of the vendor's Competency badges. TechNet is designed for them to familiarise themselves with software, but can also be sold on as a service to customers wishing to do the same.
Microsoft announced this week that 31 August would be the final day TechNet subscriptions can be purchased, ahead of the final activation day which falls at the end of September. The vendor will honour existing subscriptions until the end of their activation period.
The software giant said the move was down to "a usage shift from paid to free evaluation experiences and resources" and that it will look to develop free offerings for IT workers in the future including forums, a virtual training academy and Evaluation Centre software trials lasting for between 30 and 180 days.
The time limit imposed on the free trials has touched a nerve with resellers who claim that a maximum of six months is not enough as product life cycles typically well exceed that period.
NCI Technologies' managing director Andy Trish described the move as "completely mad".
"You want [test licences] to continue, not to be for a limited time. Exchange 2013, for example, is out for two years, and if you end up with a problem, you want to access [them] for the two years and not just 180 days," he said.
Paul Dadge, managing director or PC Paramedics, said the only other option he sees is to shell out on the full licence at extra cost.
"After 180 days, you cannot use it again so you have to purchase [an additional] licence at no discount," he said.
"I would not deploy software to a client if we were not running it ourselves. It's the responsible thing to do, we need to be confident in the software we are deploying.
"It's a kick in the teeth for partners. SBS [Small Business Server] was removed, there is constant pressure to move to Office 365, they're cutting margins – it's really tough to survive on such small margins with the cloud stuff at the moment – and now a key benefit is being removed. It is fair to say we're disillusioned with our relationship with Microsoft."
PC Paramedics' Dadge added that it seems odd for the vendor to cut off a revenue stream for itself by canning TechNet in favour of short-term free trials, but suggested the only reason he could see for the controversial move was to crack down on misuse.
Microsoft admitted in a Q&A blog post that TechNet "has experienced piracy and licence misuse in the past" but insisted that "there was no single factor in the decision to retire [the service]."
Microsoft reseller Bechtle's software manager Richard Gibbons said he has heard of some people not using the software for evaluation purposes, but rather using them full time as an alternative to purchasing licences.
"Ultimately, it seems like kind of a bad idea... it will reduce exposure of a lot of IT professionals to the new software, and will make it more difficult and expensive to get involved, which will be detrimental to Microsoft," he added.
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