What CIOs really feel about licensing

What CIOs really feel about licensing

Blimey! Talk about light blue touchpaper and retire to a safe distance — I must learn to stop asking you lot what you really think

Blimey! Talk about light blue touchpaper and retire to a safe distance — I must learn to stop asking you lot what you really think. The trouble came about this time because at the beginning of July I emailed a whole bunch of CIOs asking them about Microsoft Software Assurance (for which the acceptance deadline was July 31, 2002) and what their plans were. Given the amount of grumbling about Software Assurance I had expected a strong negative response. At the June CIO Leaders Luncheon in Auckland, I asked about 60 CIOs which of them was taking Software Assurance. At first nobody put their hand up — and as they looked around the room and realised what was happening, they all had a chuckle. However, three CIOs then clarified their position, stating they would take Software Assurance on servers but not on desktops.

It was enough to pique my curiosity, so in the interests of fair play and objective information, I sent the following email to 300 CIOs:

1. Is your organisation going to take up Software Assurance?

2. If yes, will it be for all your systems including desktops and portables, or just on your servers?

3. Have you or will you be taking up Upgrade Advantage before July 31, which will automatically upgrade you to Software Assurance on August 1?

4. If you are not taking up either of these offers, what are your reasons?

5. Are you looking at alternative operating systems or office suites?

6. Any other thoughts or comments?

As is my wont, I sent the email and then toddled off to lunch. By the time I got back I already had 50-plus replies and in total received 96 — including two who were so keen they phoned rather than wrote back. Almost without exception, all went into some detail to explain their position.

So what were the results? Well 82% are switching to Linux, 18% are going over to Apple and the rest are switching back to OS/2 — but I suspect this is a delayed sympathy vote … Just kidding.

As I mentioned earlier I expected a strong negative response and as the first batch of replies were coming in, my expectations were confirmed. However, when all the replies were in and analysed, a more balanced result became evident. In summary, the results were:

Yes to Software Assurance - 51%

No to Software Assurance - 43%

Undecided - 6%

It’s safe to assume that Microsoft would prefer 100%, but given how much negative discussion SA has generated, this is a surprisingly positive result.

Further analysis of the 51% who are taking Software Assurance revealed the following:

SA on everything - 21%

SA on servers only - 21%

SA on servers and some apps - 4%

SA because HQ says so - 3%

SA because we were upgrading - 2%

Bear in mind that almost 20% replied that they had Upgrade Advantage (or some other agreement), which automatically rolled over to Software Assurance on July 31, which has some implications on the first three categories above.

What was interesting was that the number of respondents with negative comments about SA and Microsoft’s implementation thereof, was 43% — the same percentage that had said no to SA. Comments ranged from mild criticism on the difficulty of administering MS licences through to “foaming at the mouth, I desperately need tranquillisers” soliloquys in print.

In contrast only 2% made positive comments about Microsoft and/or Software Assurance.

Other interesting results were:

Evaluating Linux - 33%

Evaluating Star Office or Open Office - 37.5%

Using Linux - 9%

Using Star Office or Open Office - 5%

Several CIOs commented along the lines that while they didn’t have a problem with SA in principle, they objected to the high costs — between 25 and 29% a year of the cost of the software, compared to an average of 22% for Oracle and 18%for IBM.

One said if Microsoft had kept SA in line with IBM and Oracle charging levels, it would have passed by without so much as a whimper. I have a sneaking suspicion that Microsoft should attend a few CIO lunches. The single biggest lesson we’ve all learnt from various lunch speakers is that technology is rarely the issue — it’s usually down to people, culture and communication.

PS: Many thanks to all the CIOs who took the time and the trouble to reply — greatly appreciated!

When he’s not causing trouble with email surveys, Casement is business manager of CIO. He can be contacted at

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