Windows Intune User Subscription: A Bold But Crippled Innovation
The Windows Intune User Subscription, rules for which are outlined in the latest edition (October 2012) of Microsoft’s Product Use Rights (PUR) document, marks one of the most significant licensing shifts in many years.
For the first time ever, Microsoft will license the desktop Windows OS per user, ending Windows’ decades-long binding to physical devices. However, SA benefits for this edition of Windows are severely curtailed, a decision that may cripple an otherwise bold initiative.
Among about 30 other changes in this latest revision of the PUR, Microsoft has also granted users of its Windows RT tablets a special concession for Office licensing.
Windows Intune User Subscription Licenses
Windows Intune is a subscription license for Windows. The main difference between Intune and conventional Windows is in how customers pay for it—through annual payments—and not how they install it. Both conventional and subscription Windows editions are installed on physical devices. The main benefits of Intune have been its management from a Web-based console hosted by Microsoft, and access to SA benefits for devices that would otherwise be ineligible.
Until now, Windows Intune subscriptions have been restricted to devices—one subscription, one Windows license for one device. Allowing Windows Intune to be assigned to users is a bold step, primarily because when a license is assigned to a user it is not limited to a single or a particular device. In the case of Windows Intune’s User SL, the license can be applied to up to five devices and can be removed from one device to another.
While pricing for the Intune User SLs has not been released, we expect prices for User SLs to be the same as those for device SLs: $11 a month or $132 a year. But where the Device SL costs $132 per device per year, the User SL could cost as little as $26.40 per device per year, since it allows installation on Windows on up to five devices per user.
This flexibility is an intelligent response to today’s multi-device mobile worker and also helps Microsoft deal with a significant threat—waning PC sales as users and organizations shift to other devices. SA revenue from Windows will be challenged in coming years as enterprise customers place less emphasis on Windows upgrades, since they are already licensed for Windows 8, which many may not deploy widely for several years and most may never deploy. Broader subscription licensing can replace the threatened annual SA revenue stream with annual subscription fees.
Read the Fine Print
However, the Intune User Subscription has a major limit—no SA benefits. This is a stark contrast to SA Benefits available for the Device SL. The Oct. 2012 PUR says “For each Windows Intune Device SL acquired, you are granted rights equivalent to those rights granted under Software Assurance for devices with active Windows Software Assurance coverage as described in the Windows Intune, Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) and Virtualization Rights for Windows Licensed Devices with Active Software Assurance” but no such clause is associated with the User SL.
That is confirmed in the PUR appendix listing SA benefits, where only the Device SL is listed as eligible. For example, the crucial Windows 8 Enterprise Edition upgrade benefit, which is also associated with the right to run up to four virtual machines or to access up to four virtual machines on the network, applies only to the Widows Desktop OS with SA, Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) and Windows Intune Device Subscription Licenses.
The exclusion of the User SL is not an accident here: the “Device” qualifier did not appear in earlier versions of the PUR, and was specifically inserted in the Oct. 2012 edition. That exclusion makes the User SL ineligible for the following SA benefits:
– Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack
– Windows Enterprise edition
– Roaming Rights
– Windows to Go
– Companion Subscription Licenses
This limitation will be a drawback for organizations that standardize on Windows Enterprise Edition, that use desktop virtualization, or that want to use the new Companion Subscription License for devices such as iPads.
Using Office on RT Devices
Windows RT is the operating system running on Microsoft’s Surface tablet, which is aimed at Apple’s iPad.
In the August 2012 PUR Microsoft granted it a special exemption to give it a leg up on Apple, Android, and similar competitors. Users of these competitive devices must purchase either a Companion Subscription License (which itself requires SA on Windows) or a Virtual Desktop Access license in order to access virtual desktop infrastructures (VDI), but Windows RT owners require only SA on Windows. Microsoft waives requirements for additional licenses to give Windows RT devices a slight licensing advantage.
In the Oct. 2012 PUR, Microsoft has blessed Windows RT devices with a similar Office benefit. Users of a computer that has any Office 2013 commercial license (Professional Plus, Standard, or Subscription), can purchase a consumer version of Office, Office Home & Student 2013 RT and use it for commercial purposes, i.e, getting work done. This waives a prohibition against using consumer products for commercial purposes.
While pricing for Office 2013 has not been announced, prices for consumer editions of Office are typically much less costly than commercial editions. For example, Office Home and Student 2010 is available from Microsoft for $150 (three-PC license) or $120 (one-PC license). In contrast, an Office Professional Plus license for commercial use costs between $290 and $505 per PC, depending on volume discount.
Thus Windows RT users can use the inexpensive Home and Student RT edition to work with Office documents while iPad users, for example, will need to purchase a full commercial license. (Microsoft currently does not make any version of Office, commercial or consumer, for non-Windows devices, although such products have been promised)
Given the likely price differential between consumer and commercial licenses, this benefit could give RT devices as much as a $400 price advantage over iPad users who want to use Office in a similar fashion.
The Microsoft Product Use Rights Change Report
Other significant changes in the Oct. 2012 include rules for the 2013 editions of Exchange, Lync, and SharePoint server products. Several editions will be dropped from Lync and Sharepoint and external licensing will also be changed.
Microsoft is also tightening up licensing for “secondary” licenses for Office 2013, restricting several of them to “local use” only. These changes could prompt some customers to purchase extra Office 2010 licenses, while they are still available, in order to maintain the more liberal reights available for earlier versions.
For a more complete review of changes to the October 2012 Product Use Rights, you can purchase our “Microsoft Product Use Rights Change Report, Oct. 2012” for $4.99. This report analyzes more than 30 noteworthy changes to Microsoft product use rights in the Oct. 2012 PUR.