"The suite of benefits in Software Assurance is broad enough and flexible enough to appeal to companies of all sizes; however, because the needs of each organization are different, customers should evaluate the benefits available to them and craft an individual program that best suits their needs," said Julie Giera, vice president Forrester Research Inc. "Not all customers will use all features of SA."
The Billion-Dollar Question
For the most part, these features have little additional cost for Microsoft, but they do help the buyer to better support the Microsoft products they purchase. From Microsoft's viewpoint, they help to build brand loyalty.
"It remains to be seen whether customers feel the enhancements are compelling enough to spend the time and resources to deploy them," said Giera. "It also remains to be seen whether Microsoft has done enough with Software Assurance to compel customers to renew the coverage in the next six months when many of these contracts expire."
Take the example of the eLearning courses. There is minimal cost involved in sending out an additional disk containing a new course. But, if the customer's employees use these courses, it cuts down support costs and it makes it less attractive for the company to start looking at Linux or StarOffice, since the employees are trained in the use of Windows and Microsoft Office. The same applies to training vouchers for the IT staff. If they are better trained, they will be more satisfied with the Microsoft products and less likely to look at changing platforms.
"The stakes are high. Microsoft has $1.1 billion in Upgrade Advantage contracts that expire this year and millions more in Software Assurance revenues that are up for renewal in 2004," Giera continues. "There is a lot of revenue riding on the answers to these questions."