Enterprises might get a break on Windows 8 devices with Office 15 — if they happened to have signed a new Enterprise Agreement after mid 2011.
That’s speculation from Cynthia Farren, principal of a software licence consulting company.
While Microsoft has not yet laid out its plans for how to charge enterprises for Windows ARM devices, it has offered clues.
An Enterprise Agreement is a licence with Microsoft which covers much of a company’s Microsoft software. It includes side benefits, particularly free upgrades to the latest versions of Microsoft software.
Earlier today, Microsoft said that Windows 8 ARM devices will include a special version of Office.
In EA agreements after mid-2011, Microsoft deliberately changed the definition of “qualified desktop” to “qualified device” when indicating what type of device is covered by the EA.
“If your EA includes Office and specifies ‘device’ then Microsoft will likely have to include Office 15 on ARM in your EA licensing agreement,” says Farren.
But the trickier part is how Microsoft will charge for the Windows 8 operating system itself. To understand the potential gotcha, you’ve got to understand how Microsoft treats non-Windows devices in these agreements.
If a company yanks out its Windows desktops and replaces them with iPads that are set up to be able to run Windows and Office apps, Microsoft charges a “Virtual Desktop Access” fee for each device. And it doesn’t remove those devices from the cost of the EA agreement unless a company deliberately goes back and negotiates for that. So Microsoft will double charge for those devices — still charging for the Windows licence no longer in use and also charging a fee to access Windows in a virtual Web-based cloud way.
Microsoft is clearly trying to penalise non-Windows devices by making it uber expensive to run Windows software on them.
So, if Windows 8 on an ARM tablet is considered a “fully functional OS” and not an “embedded OS” then an upgrade to it would be covered by the EA licence with SA. A company with a recent EA could swap out other Windows devices with the tablet and be squared away.
It is unclear how Microsoft will treat customers with older EA agreements that still use the words “qualified desktop.”
Farren also says that she doesn’t expect Microsoft to be offering any great deals on EA licenses for Windows ARM tablets. While companies may not have to pay for Office 15 or the VDA fee, there are other gotchas. Because employees may actually need two devices — their PC and their tablet — enterprises could wind up spending more on Microsoft overall.
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