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Sat 1 Mar 2003 04:00 AM

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Software licensing confusion

Software licensing has often been treated as something of an afterthought by the channel in this region.

Software licensing has often been treated as something of an afterthought by the channel in this region. With two more resellers arrested in Kuwait for selling pirated software, it would seem that trying to get some resellers to change their ways and to stop illegally copying software is an impossible task.

Even this low level of software piracy, just a few copies of Windows going onto a few PCs, is being targeted by the authorities around the region, and those that are caught are going to prison and getting fined. But still piracy goes on.

One of the problems, it seems, is the complexity of software licensing schemes. In the March issue of Channel ITP managing editor Rob Corder takes a closer look at the subject, but from the resellers he spoke to, it appears that there is widespread confusion over the different schemes, and far too often this impacts on the reseller’s ability to deliver their customer the best value solution.

Some of the vendors and distributors are trying to create clearer programmes, but even Microsoft admits that with so many products for so many different customers, there also has to be a wide range of schemes.

Which, of course, means that the reseller still has to get to grips with far too many different programmes if they want to sell legitimate software at the best price or most suitable licence for customers.

But what can be done? For a start, Tech Data has scored some reasonable success with its software licensing guide, which at least gives the reseller easier access to data on the different schemes. Microsoft has also tried to create programmes that are easy to understand, and provides phone support for resellers, but there are still a hell of a lot of licensing scheme to handle.

One solution is to try and track each customer, using something like a loyalty scheme. While there have been some moves towards gaining improved customer data through Microsoft’s product activation process, there are also rumours that product activation may be dropped, which would put an end to this source of information.

Also, for businesses in the Middle East that may have very different requirements from office to office, it would require almost constant updating of information. There are tools online which aim to automatically provide the best licensing scheme based on customer information entered on the web site, yet the reluctance of regional resellers to actually use the Internet still seems to persist.

In fact, the only sure fire solution would be to change the way we buy software—at least with an ASP model, customers would definitely only pay for what they actually used. But then not many customers are happy outsourcing...

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