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Wednesday 3rd July 2013



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Microsoft’s murder most foul: TechNet is dead

Do we ’low margin’ dregs matter to you any more, Redmond? Thought not.

By Trevor Pott, 1st July 2013

Sysadmin blog The end of TechNet Subscriptions is upon us. Let’s take a moment to digest this, shall we?

TechNet subscriptions were a cheap way to get access to virtually the entire Microsoft library of software for the purposes of building and maintaining a testlab environment.

The cost ranged from $200 to $600 a year, and when combined with the free eval versions gave you everything you could ever want to build a Microsoft test environment. TechNet subscriptions were the gateway drug to the Microsoft ecosystem, a need Microsoft now feels will be met by MSDN subscriptions (starting at $700 and going up to $13,400), Microsoft Virtual Academy and the Technet forums. Why TechNet mattered

I don’t doubt for a second that the advent of virtualisation saw a shift from TechNet usage to free evaluation copies of software. I think my own use case for TechNet is fairly typical and even I see this shift.

I use TechNet to build the “structure” of my testlab environment: a domain controller, a file server, an SQL server, and so forth. These are the types VMs that I will need for years at a time to maintain my testlab environment. I supplement these with free/eval VMs for application servers and so forth because these VMs won’t be around for very long. They need to be spun up to test a restore from backup or to see if a patch will work.

After they’ve served their purpose there’s no reason to keep them around and it isn’t worth my time to fight Microsoft’s maddening DRM by applying a licence at VM creation and then attempting to recover it at VM destruction. As an SME admin, none of my clients are large enough to be using volume licenses (or for that matter to afford the utterly worthless Software Assurance cost premium) and thus don’t have KMS servers to make this headache smaller.

So I agree with Microsoft: the bulk of my usage – and the usage of every single sysadmin venting their outraged spleen into the two dozen or so IRC channels I hang out on – is indeed free eval copies. Yet our testlabs couldn’t function without those long-term copies provided by TechNet. This isn’t an either/or scenario: both options simply must exist. You’re all Freetards

According to Microsoft’s own FAQ: “The software provided with TechNet Subscriptions is designed for hands-on IT Professionals to evaluate Microsoft software and plan deployments. The software provided with MSDN Subscriptions is available for evaluation, development, and testing purposes.”

Microsoft’s Monday e-mail said this: “As IT trends and business dynamics have evolved, so has Microsoft’s set of offerings for IT professionals who are looking to learn, evaluate and deploy Microsoft technologies and services. In recent years, we have seen a usage shift from paid to free evaluation experiences and resources. As a result, Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service and will discontinue sales on August 31, 2013.”

I read the both of these combined to say that those of us who have been using TechNet to build a stable testlab environment for the purposes of testing and new software versions or MS patches have been freeloading on Microsoft’s goodwill. We should really have been paying for MSDN all along; testing a new version shouldn’t require infrastructure to stick around for more than the 30-180 days provided by free evaluation copies.

Anything that might require a stable envrinoment isn’t “evaluating software” or “planning deployments”. It is “evaluation, development or testing” and thus really should be something we pay extra for.

Of course, how this jibes with the inclusion of TechNet subscriptions into Action Pack subscriptions is a mystery. It was made fairly explicit to me as a Microsoft Partner that the TechNet subscription was to build my testlab and the Action Pack licences were to give me production usage rights; the combined package was to be enough for a small business to get off the ground in the Microsoft ecosystem. Take that, sysadmins!

The cancellation of TechNet subscriptions isn’t merely a Windows 8.1-style slap in the face or an incomprehensible XBone-class failure to read the market. This is a deliberate, planned, carefully considered shot to the vital bits from on high.

The message is crystal clear: if you want to test Microsoft software on anything excepting disposable short-term “free evals”, then you will do it in the cloud and you’ll pay for the privilege. Can’t afford to subscribe to the cloud for a test lab? MSDN a little too pricy, or the restriction to development use too severe? Too bad.

You and I – we dregs of the IT industry – are not Microsoft’s target market. Microsoft has moved beyond the SME, the hobbyist, and the power user. Where once we were the foundations of the empire – the hearts and hands upon which Microsoft built and projected its global mindshare – we have become too “low margin” to maintain as customers.

Murdering TechNet is only the latest in a series of moves by Microsoft aimed at cutting the deadweight from its customer base. From shenanigans such as trying to neuter Office licences and push us all to subscriptions, to the perpetual guilty-unless-proven-innocent ratcheting shut of MSDN and TechNet subscriptions (to fight “piracy”), all have made Microsoft’s ambitions clear. Why you and I aren’t really relevant at all

Microsoft can’t win a fight to defend a monopoly position forever. All you need to do is look to Apple’s halving of market share in the face of Android to understand that. It is simply bad business for Microsoft to continue to expend vast resources on placating the kinds of people for whom things like TechNet make a difference.

Microsoft is in no real hurry to bleed away market share – I’m sure their PR droids will be along soon to tell the world that Microsoft does indeed care about the fuzzy wuzzies and ’Why are you saying such mean things!’ – but the reality is that if it is to survive it needs to set a bold vision and convince those with deep pockets that it is the way forward. That vision is the cloud, subscriptions, and driving margins up, not down.

The rest of us can follow – or not – as we choose. Microsoft ultimately doesn’t care. Microsoft is in the process of shifting into an Oracle-like high-margin player. It wants fewer customers with bigger pockets and it isn’t afraid of “drop off” suffered by the disenfranchised or the poor.

Make no mistake: this isn’t an arrogance born out of a belief that it retains a monopoly on the desktop, the Office productivity suite, or the server market. It is a wholesale shift in approach in recognition of its loss of monopoly.

You don’t matter to Microsoft and neither do I. We’ve known all known this for ages, but Microsoft has finally decided that they aren’t going to even bother to fake it anymore. Now is the time for those of us who don’t live “at scale” – and with budgets to match – to start looking farther afield, before we move from “customer” to “hostage”. ®

COMMENTS All Reader Comments (27) Highly Rated

Posted Monday 1st July 2013 22:07 GMT Paul Crawford

Now is the time?

before we move from “customer” to “hostage.”

This is just the latter stage of boiling a frog, it started with XP’s “product activation” and the same thing moved to all of their products.

The move towards “higher margins” via cloud-based subscription lock-in, the means of screwing more out of its customers is no real surprise, as they can see the desktop market and OEM fees under serious pressure now, added to the lack of any real incentive for upgrades. Machines are fast enough for most user’s needs, and other than fixing dumb security holes, what is there *new* in most OS to justify the pain and cost of migration?

This sort of move is not going to help MS in the long run, but I can’t really say I care much.

Tux! Not perfect, but my choice because at least I have the freedom to use it as I please, and to modify and improve it should I have the ability or time to do so.

Posted Tuesday 2nd July 2013 01:24 GMT ShelLuser Display of incompetence...

I do agree with the author that it sure looks that Microsoft is going out of their way in search for more money because it indeed loses its monopoly position.

However, the way they do it shows how braindead they really are. These are dark times in my opinion. Because if you’re losing the edge then I’d say the last thing you want to do is make yourself less popular. Instead focus on that part and make sure that people still want to use and sell your products.

To me TechNet wasn’t merely a source of software for evaluation; it was a /constant/ source of software for evaluation on a wider range than merely the “latest and greatest”. This is going to hurt them even more than they may realize I think.

What I mean with that?

My company is a Microsoft reseller. My core business is website hosting and in-house systems administration. At my home office I run Win7 and Office 2010. So what to do when I have a job coming up where a customer still runs XP and Office 2007 or 2003 and I need to prepare for something specific?

Then I download this software from TechNet, setup a test environment and prepare myself to working with the customers environment. I save the serials in OneNote and when I’m done the software gets removed again.

Obviously that is not going to work any more. The new evaluation centre only provides the latest software for, well, evaluation to determine if you’re going to buy it or not. That’s not what I’m doing; I’m using it to evaluate how a customer environment looks and feels and to prepare me for my job.

Not only doesn’t that centre provide older (or current!) software; the time limit also makes it useless for me. I don’t use software 180 days straight. But I might use it for 180 days in total, spread out over 2 or 3 years or so. But obviously that won’t be possible: I imagine that once you start your evaluation the clock ticks for 180 days straight. And when it runs out you’re done.

Its pathetic. You can’t even grab Server 2008R2 from there, even though that is still quite a mainstream product.

The next “alternative” is the virtual labs. Evaluation online. “No need to install a thing”. But like, that’s exactly one of the aspects that I’m after: getting experience up-front so that I can somewhat prepare myself before going on-site where the customer pays by the hour.

This is going to cost Microsoft a lot more money than they bargained for I think.

Do you really think I’ll continue to promote MS Office (2013) if I can no longer do any easy test runs myself (I’m still on 2010 myself and that’s not going to change)?

I can see it now... “Sure, I can come over and set up MS Office for you. Let’s see, that’s going to take me at least 3 hours, excluding the price of Office. I know it sounds ridiculous; but I’ll have to do all preparations on site. What’s that? Making sure that your environment can actually /run/ Office 2013, I can no longer do this from here. Sorry. Yeah, at E 80/hours plus the software costs its going to get expensive, I know. What? Office 365? Nah, what I’d recommend is considering to get OpenOffice. It’s a free office suite and one which I know will run on your environment because I already tested it myself. What? Nah, the software is free and I think I’ll be done within the hour. Maybe 2 if you also want some instructions. Well, just look at it this way: the extra E 80,- for an hour of instructions is basically paid by what you’re saving with not purchasing Office 2013, which costs much more than that. Yeah, it’s fully compatible, no problems there.”.

Does Microsoft really think I’ll just tell my customers to get a subscription with them while there’s still honest money to be made for myself? I don’t think so.

Your loss Microsoft.

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The FDA announced last week that the 300mg generic version of Wellbutrin XL manufactured by Impax Laboratories and marketed by Teva Pharmaceuticals was being recalled because it did not work. And this wasn’t just a problem with one batch – this is a problem that has been going on with this particular drug for four or five years, and the FDA did everything it could to ignore it.

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Public Relations and Marketing

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Until next time,
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read widely,
think well of your fellow man,
eat food that is good for you
and do the important things
that make a difference -
they are rarely the urgent ones!


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