“Unlicensed Product” errors in Microsoft Office

Earlier this evening, I noticed that my copy of Outlook was showing as an “unlicensed product” at the top of the screen. That seemed strange, as I pay for an Office 365 Home subscription, which covers my family’s various copies of Office.

Outlook reports intself as an unlicensed product

So, I took a look at the Office Account settings, and noticed that it wasn’t signed in to Office 365 for some of the connected sources.

Disconnected from Office 365 services

I reconnected to My Office 365 subscription, signing in with my “Work or school account” as that’s what the markwilson.it Office 365 subscription uses, even though the Office 365 Home subscription uses a Personal Account (formerly known as a Microsoft Account):

Which Microsoft account to use?!

After authenticating (and a restart), Outlook was no longer complaining about being unlicenced.

I’m not sure if it’s a complication of having both a Microsoft Account (MSA) and an Organization/Work and School (Azure AD) account with the same email address, but it seems there are various scenarios that can present this issue.

Thankfully this one wasn’t too hard to sort out!

Instead of innovating, Adobe proves that if it looks too good to be true it probably is…

Yesterday, I spotted tweets and blog posts suggesting that Adobe was giving away its CS2 and Acrobat 7 products (which date back to around 2005) for free.

My initial thoughts were:

  1. Surely not?
  2. What an innovative way to tackle piracy and competition!

If you’re confused by my thinking here, Adobe is under increasing pressure from piracy and from open source alternatives (e.g. GIMP instead of Photoshop). Giving away an older version of the software lacks some of the later bells and whistles, and might introduce issues on newer hardware and operating systems but brings people into the Adobe ecosystem from where, hopefully, they will upgrade/expand into other Adobe products.

Apparently not. It seems that Adobe has shut down the CS2 product activation servers, and made alternative arrangements for registered users (thanks to Tim Biller for that link).

Whilst software and serial numbers have both been (and continue to be) published on official Adobe servers, with no extra terms displayed regarding limitations of their use, Adobe are stating elsewhere that these keys are only for use by existing CS2 customers:

“Effective December 13, Adobe disabled the activation server for CS2 products and Acrobat 7 because of a technical glitch. These products were released over 7 years ago and do not run on many modern operating systems. But to ensure that any customers activating those old versions can continue to use their software, we issued a serial number directly to those customers.  While this might be interpreted as Adobe giving away software for free, we did it to help our customers.”

I applaud Adobe for thinking of its customers on legacy products but their good intentions do seem to have backfired a little. With this latest statement, instead of doing something truly innovative, it seems that Adobe has simply proved an old adage:

“If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Windows 7 UK pricing… and what does E Edition really mean for IT Pros?

A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the pricing for Windows 7 and, much to the disappointment of those looking for a a cheap upgrade like Apple’s $29 OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard”, retail copies of Windows 7 will cost about the same as for Windows Vista (pretty much).

Although the European prices originally looked steeper, for the time being (and at least until the end of 2009), European customers will get a full packaged product at the price originally intended for upgrades. Quoting Bill Veghte, Senior Vice President for Microsoft’s Windows Business in a letter to the Financial Times:

“We typically offer two Windows versions to retail customers: a full version for use on any computer and an upgrade version – at a lower price – that can only be used on computers that are already licensed for Windows. In light of recent changes we made to European versions of Window 7, we will not have an upgrade version available in Europe when we release the new operating system. Therefore, we’ve decided to offer the full version of Windows 7 to all customers at the lower upgrade price. In the future we may have an upgrade offering of Windows 7 available in Europe, and at that time we would revert to differential pricing of the full and upgrade versions, as we have in the rest of the world. This means that we will always have the lower upgrade pricing available for European consumers who are already licensed for Windows.”

For many business, the advertised prices for Windows are of little conseqence as only a small number will buy a full packaged product version – OEM licenses are available for System Builders and Volume Licensing is available to businesses with more than 5 seats. Over in consumer-land things are a bit different though – I understand that Apple is cross-subsiding its operating system with its hardware sales but a multi-PC edition of Windows 7 Home Premium (similar to the 3-install Office 2007 Home and Student Edition) would have been a reasonable thing to expect from Microsoft. It, seems they didn’t think so, regardless of their statements about “economic resets”.

As expected, there is a Windows 7 Upgrade Option Programme that started on 26 June 2009 and ends with Windows 7 general availability on 22 October 2009. It’s important to understand that, even though Microsoft is offering the upgrade free of charge, PC makers may charge a fee to send media to customers.

Windows 7 Home Premium E Edition
Customers also get a limited time opportunity to pre-order Windows 7 with a special price. For volume license customers, Windows 7 will be available from 1 September 2009 with a 15-35% limited time promotional discount based on license volumes and geographic location (as announced by Bill Veghte at the Worldwide Partner Conference keynote). In addition, starting today (15 July 2009), until 9 August 2009 (or while stocks last), UK customers can pre-order Windows 7 Home Premium E Edition for £49.99 or Windows 7 Professional E Edition for £99.99 (there have been similar deals in other countries). The UK retailers for this offer are:

  • Microsoft Store.
  • Argos.
  • Amazon.co.uk.
  • Comet.
  • Currys.
  • Dixons.
  • Ebuyer.com.
  • Play.com.
  • Littlewoods.
  • John Lewis.
  • Micro Anvika.
  • PC World.
  • Staples.
  • Tesco.

Windows 7 Professional E Edition
Note that this is for the E Editions (I’m really annoyed about this whole E Edition nonsense). When they were announced, I wondered how it would affect those of us trying to put together Windows 7 images for deployment in several geographies (will we need one image for Europe and another for the rest of the world?) and, based on the editions available for pre-order, it seems that Microsoft really will only ship E Edition to European Union member countries. Not just an optional N Edition as with XP and Vista (and 7) for No Windows Media Player (or Nobody bought it!) but a compulsory E Edition for Everyone has to fall in line with the EU’s stupid vendetta against Microsoft.

I’m still trying to get some answers from Microsoft about how I can create a build image for global deployment as I’m not 100% certain that creating a global build based on US media will be acceptable from a support or licensing perspective…

Other points for European users to be aware of include that:

  • Because there is no upgrade from Windows Vista to the E edition of Windows 7 you’ll need to back up all of your files and settings, install the operating system, then re-install your files, settings, and programs. And, because the E editions of Windows 7 do not contain a web browser, Microsoft’s advice is:

    “Please get a browser from Microsoft or a third party and have it on a CD/DVD or another device so it’s ready to install after the Windows 7 installation is complete.”

    (Failing that, there’s always a command line FTP client!)

  • I’ve not seen a reference to this anywhere else but CNET is reporting that:

    Unlike the rest of the world, everybody in Europe gets to install 7 E on more than one machine, providing it’s not running on more than one machine at a time, and we don’t have to pay extra for the privilege, unlike our non-European cousins.

    (I’m not convinced about that one…)

Frankly, E Edition is a mess. If the EU thinks that this aids competition then it can only be as a result of all the ensuing chaos and confusion… hopefully Microsoft and the EU can resolve their differences soon.

[Updated @15:17 to acknowledge that there is an N edition for Windows 7]

Microsoft System Center licensing gets a complex simplication treatment

Some time ago, I wrote that the most cost-effective way to license multiple System Center products is generally through the purchase of a System Center server management suite license, which includes licenses for System Center Operations Manager (SCOM), System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).

It’s worth noting that Microsoft made some changes this week which complicate things somewhat as, according to a communication that I received from a large account reseller (LAR):

“Effective on 1 July, 2009, with the release of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) will be switched from an unlimited operating system environment to a four operating system environment. A new suite offering, Microsoft System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD) will be introduced and will include the same products as System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise, but, it will be licensed per processor and will provide for the management of an unlimited number of operating system environments.”

Whilst this kind of makes sense because it falls in line with the Windows Server virtualisation licensing it also has the potential to affect the cost of licensing management products in a virtualised environment as, where high levels of server consolidation may have previously been achieved and managed with an SMSE, now multiple SMSDs will be required.

Further information may be found on Microsoft’s How to Buy the System Center Server Management Suites page but there is also a Server Management Suite Editions FAQ for those who want to know the details.

More licensing changes for virtualisation with Windows Server 2008

Last summer, there was a big shake up of Microsoft’s licensing policies around virtualisation. Matt McSpirit provides the best explanation of licensing Windows Server in a virtual environment that I’ve seen on his blog but, today, I was notified about some new developments in the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 licensing model.

Quoting from the e-mail I received:

“Currently, if your physical server environment is running Windows Server 2003, matching version CALs are required for all users (i.e. Windows Server 2003 CALs). However, if you move your physical Windows Server 2003 Operating System Environments (OSE) to run as virtual machines hosted by Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008 CALs are required. This is per the current use rights. With the change in our licensing policy, Windows Server 2008 CALs are no longer required if you are using Windows Server 2008 solely as a virtualization host. The only exception to this is if you are running Windows Server 2008 virtual machines, which would require Windows Server 2008 CALs.”

The e-mail then goes on to describe three scenarios by way of example:

Scenario 1 – Customer deploying WS08 Workloads

  • There is no change in licensing or CAL requirements
  • This is irrespective of whether the customer deploys WS08 workloads (other than Hyper-V) in a physical or virtual environment.

Scenario 2 – Customer only deploys WS08 Hyper-V to consolidate WS03

  • WS08 CAL are no longer required
  • Customer will still need CALs for the appropriate WS edition (WS03 in this example)

Scenario 3 – Customer deploys WS08 Hyper-V to consolidate WS03 but also has WS08 deployments

  • WS08 CAL requirements will apply for the WS08 deployment
  • A CAL for a particular version of Windows Server allows the user/device to access all instances of that version of Windows Server (and prior versions) across the organization.”

So, if you have a Windows Server 2003 (or earlier) estate without SA and were thinking of virtualising on Windows Server 2008 (but didn’t want to stump up for the Windows Server 2008 CALs), this could save you a lot of money. Full details may be found in the updated licensing brief.

Microsoft improves support for virtualisation – unless you’re using a VMware product

Software licensing always seems to be one step behind the technology. In the past, I’ve heard Microsoft comment that to virtualise one of their desktop operating systems (e.g using VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) was in breach of the associated licensing agreements – then they introduced a number of licensing changes – including the Vista Enterprise Centralised Desktop (VECD) – to provide a way forward (at least for those customers with an Enterprise Agreement). Similarly I’ve heard Microsoft employees state that using Thinstall (now owned by VMware and rebranded as ThinApp) to run multiple copies of Internet Explorer is in breach of the EULA (the cynic in me says that I’m sure they would have fewer concerns if the technology involved was App-V). A few years back, even offline virtual machine images needed to be licensed – then Microsoft updated their Windows Server licensing to include virtualisation rights but it was never so clear-cut for applications with complex rules around the reassignment of licenses (e.g. in a disaster recovery failover scenario). Yesterday, Microsoft made another step to bring licencing in line with customer requirements when they waived the previous 90-day reassignment rule for a number of server applications, allowing customers to reassign licenses from one server to another within a server farm as frequently as required (it’s difficult to run a dynamic data centre if the licenses are not portable!).

It’s important to note that Microsoft’s licensing policies are totally agnostic of the virtualisation product in use – but support is an entirely different matter.

Microsoft also updated their support policy for Microsoft software running on a non-Microsoft virtualisation platform (see Microsoft knowledge base article 897615) with an increased number of Microsoft applications supported on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Microsoft Hyper-V Server (not yet a released product) or any third-party validated virtualisation platform – based on the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Programme (SVVP). Other vendors taking part in the SVVP include Cisco, Citrix, Novell, Sun Microsystems and Virtual Iron… but there’s a rather large virtualisation vendor who seems to be missing from the party…

[Update: VMware joined the party… they were just a little late]

Microsoft Licensing: Part 9 (useful links)

When I set out to write a series on Microsoft software licensing, I never expected there to be a total of nine posts.

For those who missed the others, they were:

  1. Client and server.
  2. Licensing without CALs.
  3. Server products.
  4. System Center products.
  5. Virtualisation.
  6. Forefront security products.
  7. How to buy Microsoft software.
  8. Software Assurance.

In this final post in the series, I’ll provide some useful links to Microsoft software licensing resources.

To start off with, there’s the Microsoft Licensing Reseller Handbook – intended for partners but publicly available and packed with links.

For those interested in volume licensing, the Microsoft Volume Licensing Reference Guide is intended for customers and explains the various options that are available.

Next up, there’s Emma (Lady Licensing)’s Licensing and Software Asset Management blog… which has a stack of information but I do find it a little odd that almost the first thing you read on the site is a notice that shouts “DO NOT COPY CONTENT WITHOUT MY EXPRESS PERMISSION” when the whole point is about sharing information (try Creative Commons) and much of that information appears to be a direct copy and paste from information provided by her employer (Microsoft)!

Other links that might be useful include:

If you have a licensing query and it’s not covered in any of the links here, call Microsoft – for UK customers the number is 0870 60 10 100.

Finally, I mentioned in the first post that this series has been based on information from a TechNet presentation at Microsoft UK – thanks to Jackie Elleker at Microsoft UK for presenting the information in a way that even I could understand – and for answering my many questions. Jackie has also produced a short video with Blue Solutions in which she explains many of the key points of Microsoft Licensing – including payment options.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 8 (software assurance)

In my earlier post on how to buy Microsoft software, I mentioned Software Assurance (SA).

SA includes upgrade rights for all software released during the period of the agreement along with a number of additional benefits. Purchased as part of a volume license agreement or on an individual product, SA is a contraversial subject – Microsoft will highlight the many advantages that it offers to customers, whereas IT Managers will often question its value.

Unless included within the terms of an Open Value License or Enterprise Agreement, SA costs between 25 and 29% of the accompanying license price and, although it can be renewed, it ends when the accompanying agreement terminates. An ROI tool is available to help assess the likely financial benefits of SA but the trouble with software is that it’s a bit like the proverbial London Bus – you wait years for a new release and then they all come along at once…

For an IT Manager, this may mean that they don’t percieve their SA as having provided much benefit (e.g. if they didn’t see many new releases during the period of their agreement) but it can also work the other way. For example, I know of at least one Microsoft customer that has not resigned their EA because in the last few years they have gained the rights to upgrade their desktop from XP to Vista, their Office productivity suite from Office 2003 to 2007, their server infrastructure from Windows Server 2003 R2 to 2008 and to perform a number of server application upgrades (Exchange Server 2003 to 2007, Live Communications Server 2005 to Office Communications Server 2007, SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to Office SharePoint Server 2007, Systems Management Server 2003 to System Center Configuration Manager 2007, Operations Manager 2005 to System Center Operations Manager 2007, etc.). Now they have the right to use all of that software so they have their infrastructure upgrades for the next few years “in the bag” and see no reason to resign the EA. That’s not good for Microsoft, but very good for my anecdotal customer.

The full list of SA benefits, at each stage in the lifecycle, includes:

Lifecycle Stage Benefit
Plan New Version Rights
Spread Payments
Deploy Desktop Deployment Planning Services
Information Work Solution Services
Training Vouchers
Use eLearning
Home Use Program
Employee Purchase Program
Windows Vista Enterprise Edition
Desktop Optimisation Pack
Enterprise Source License Program
Maintain 24×7 Problem Resolution Support
TechNet Plus subscription
Cold backups for disaster recovery
Transition

There exact benefits that are available depend on the volume licensing agreement in place and an SA benefits comparison chart is available for download.

One of the major benefits for corporate users with Select or Enterprise agreements is the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). This contains five additional technologies: Microsoft Application Virtualization (formerly Softricity SoftGrid); Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring; Microsoft Asset Inventory Service (formerly AssetMetrix); Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (formerly Winternals Administator’s Pak); and Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (formerly DesktopStandard GPOVault).

MDOP is a big pull for many organisations – particularly the Application Virtualization element – but it is a subscription service which means that when the accompanying volume license agreement ends so does the right to use the MDOP tools.

For many, a crystal ball would be useful when deciding if SA is appropriate – it all depends on how an organisation’s roadmap is aligned with new product releases and consequentially whether the benefits of SA will actually be of use. My view is that there are some substantial benefits available – and I’d suggest that the MDOP benefits might actually help to reduce operational costs and therefore finance the SA.

In the final part of this series on software licensing, I’ll summarise the eight posts so far and provide links to further information.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 7 (how to buy Microsoft software)

Continuing the series on Microsoft licensing, I’m going to look at how to buy Microsoft software. Basically, there are three ways to buy a license:

  • Full packaged product (FPP) – purchased from a retailer and typically a single box contains a single license.
  • Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) – software supplied with a computer and which “lives and dies” on that machine.
  • Volume licensing – purchased from resellers with a variety of programmes to suit different types of organisation.

Technically, there is a fourth method too – software may be made available for download free of charge from the web (although this is still subject to an end user license agreement).

There’s not much to say about buying FPP software – except that it’s the most expensive way to buy software and should be avoided where possible.

OEM software packs are intended for system builders only and are not intended for distribution to end users unless the end users are acting as system builders by assembling their own PCs. Often, it’s possible to purchase OEM software from distributors but there are conditions attached. OEM software is intended for system builders and the system builder license agreement is effectively accepted when the shrink-wrap on the software is broken and acceptance of those terms involves offering support on the product.

Effectively, if I buy OEM software from a distributor and build a PC for someone (even family) with that software pre-applied, I need to offer end-user support.

OEM software requires product activation, is only available as a full product (no upgrades – although software assurance may be available if enrolled by the end user within 30 or 90 days, depending on the product) and must be pre-installed with the certificate of authenticity or proof of license label attached to the hardware. Once installed, the product is only available for use with that computer and cannot be transferred.

Certain OEM software may be legally downgraded, for example Windows Vista Business and Ultimate Editions may be downgraded to Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2008 may be downgraded to Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2000. One notable exception is Office 2007, which cannot be downgraded. Instead, Microsoft has the concept of an Office Ready PC – a 60-day trial version of Office 2007 for pre-installation by the OEM, sold with a medialess license kit (MLK). The end user can upgrade to a full version of Office when the trial ends and end-user technical support is offered by Microsoft, rather than by the OEM.

OEM copies of Windows also include the rights to produce images of the software for deployment.

Before moving on to look at Volume licensing, let’s examine licensing Windows desktop operating systems, where there is one point I need to make crystal clear – FPP and OEM are the only ways to purchase a full Windows desktop operating system license.

This means that if an organisation thinks it can save money by buying PCs without Windows (certain vendors will do this, e.g. a grey box PC with Linux pre-installed) and then apply copies of Windows obtained through a volume license programme, they are not licensed to use Windows. The only way to become legal from this situation is to an FPP copy of Windows. Windows Vista Business upgrade licenses sold though volume license agreements are upgrades only (for Windows XP Professional computers) and are not intended for installation on a “naked” PC.

For any organisation with more than 5 users, Volume licensing programmes are available. Volume licensing separates the license from the media, packaging and support as well as offering flexible rights such as:

  • Downgrade rights.
  • Transfer and reassignment rights (except Windows Vista upgrade – and FPP products have a one-time transfer right).
  • Imaging rights.
  • Flexible payment options.
  • Alternative language use rights.

The type of agreement will depend on the number of users, and whether or not the software is to be purchased (a perpetual license) or leased (non-perpetual):

5-250 PCs >250 PCs
Owned Open License Select License
Open Value License (with SA) Enterprise Agreement (with SA for all PCs)
Open Value License Company Wide (with SA for all PCs)
Leased Open Value License Subscription (with SA for all PCs) Enterprise Subscription Agreement (with SA for all PCs)

In the case of leased (non-perpetual) software, the agreement can be converted or re-purchased upon expiry but if these options are not exercised then the organisation is no longer licensed to use the software.

Open Licenses are sold by resellers via the distribution channel, whereas Select and Enterprise agreements are sold by specialist Large Account Resellers (LARs) via Microsoft.

For organisations looking to standardise their PCs (e.g. for support reasons), Open Value Company Wide or Enterprise Agreements (EAs) can be advantageous.

Software Assurance (SA) includes upgrade rights for all software released as long as the agreement is current. It also includes a number of other benefits (which is why I’ll save a full explanation for another post). SA can either be purchased as part of a volume license agreement or on an individual product.

There are also a number of special licensing arrangements for educational establishments – in addition to Open and Select licensing, Campus Agreement subscriptions and School Agreement subscriptions are available to schools, colleges and universities, as well as local education authorities, public libraries, public museums and some charitable organisations.

Further details of Microsoft Volume Licensing arrangements are available in the Microsoft Volume Licensing Reference Guide.

Microsoft also takes part in the Charity Technology eXchange (CTX) programme, donating software to eligible organisations with a very heavy discount (all that is charged is an administrative fee). Charities can request up to 50 licenses from each of 6 titles (selected from 13 available products) in a two-year product. Eligible charitable organisations are defined as non-profit or non-govermental organisations holding charitable status with the aim of releif to the poor, advancement of education, social and community welfare, culture, the natural environment or other purposes that are beneficial to the community. An FAQ is available with further details on Microsoft’s involvement in CTX.

In the next post in this series, I’ll take a more detailed look at software assurance.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 6 (Forefront security products)

Continuing the series on licensing Microsoft software, in this post I look at the various security products that Microsoft offers. Many of these products are the result of acquisitions, so it may help to look at the old and new product names:

  • Sybari Antigen is now integrated into Forefront Server Security and Forefront Client Security.
  • FrontBridge services are now sold as Exchange Hosted Services (EHS).
  • The Whale Communications product is now offered as Internet Access Gateway (IAG).
  • Sybari Antigen Enterprise Manager has become the Forefront Server Security Management Console.

The Forefront security products make use of multiple anti-virus engines, with five engines included in the base cost (CA InnoculateIT, CA VET, Microsoft Antivirus, Norman DataDefense and Sophos) and four more optional engines available (AhnLabs, Authentium, Kaspersky and Virus Busters). Included within the Forefront Security Suite is:

  • Forefront Client Security.
  • Forefront Client Security Management Console.
  • Forefront Security for Exchange Server.
  • Forefront Security for SharePoint.
  • Forefront Server Security Security Management Console.

All products are offered on a subscription basis although the Enterprise CAL (ECAL) suite includes the Forefront Security Suite with no extra licensing requirements.

The Exchange Enterprise CAL is also available to Select and Enterprise customers with services included, adding Forefront for Exchange Server and Exchange Hosted Filtering to the Exchange Enterprise CAL. This option is not available with retail licensing or to Open license customers) and must be taken up on a company-wide basis.

In the next part of this series, I’ll finally move on to take a look at the various methods that are available in order to buy Microsoft software.