Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager - Eric Ligman

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Business owners: Fire any consultant who tries to sell you Office 2003, especially Retail Box

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Business owners: Fire any consultant who tries to sell you Office 2003, especially Retail Box

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I post this because I actually saw a reseller earlier today trying to locate Office 2003 Retail Box product to sell to their customer.  If you are that customer and you read this, it may be time to find a new consultant!  Why?  Many, many, many reasons but it mostly comes down to one of two things:

1) They are not looking to provide you with the best option since they are selling you something that will cost you more in the short-term and the long-term (Maybe they are just trying to get more money out of you without you knowing it)

2) They have no idea what they are recommending or how to sell Microsoft products (Someone actually replied back to this reseller and recommended buying from an online auction site!  Considering there is a 90+% chance it is counterfeit or illegal if you buy it there, please do NOT buy your Microsoft software from ANY auction site or you may be adding an additional cost from fines for running illegal software)

How do we know that one or both of the two prior statements are true?  Simple:

1) Selling you a Retail Box version of Office (any version) means you are paying more than you should as a business.  You could buy a license of Office through the Open Business Volume Licensing Program and save money while also getting additional benefits such as: electronic license protection, downgrade rights, and much more.  Here are some side-by-side comparisons I posted earlier to the Blog:

2) If they sold you an Open License of Office 2007 (which costs less) instead of the Retail Box of Office 2003 (which costs more), you could use the downgrade rights included in the Open License rights which means you could install Office 2003 today if you want to, then when you are ready to move to Office 2007, you could do so without having to purchase anything else for those machines.  By them selling you Office 2003, when you want to move to Office 2007, you not only paid more the first time, now you need to spend more money to get the Office 2007 license to move to the new version.

    • If they tell you that you can "downgrade" your Retail Box version, run!  Retail Box and OEM licenses of Office have NO downgrade rights at all.  Your consultant really has no idea what they are telling you since they are actually informing you to illegally install a prior version of Office!

3) By selling you a Retail Box version, they are making you responsible for tracking a paper license that you could lose, which would mean that you no longer have a license to run Office on those machines.  Had they sold you an Open License for Office, your license would be an electronic license that you cannot lose.  You can see more on this HERE.

4) If they tell you that you need 5 PCs to qualify for the Open Licensing Programs, they have no idea what they are talking about.

5) If you are looking for less than 5 Microsoft Office licenses and you do not already have an Open License or Open Value Agreement in place (if you do, you can purchase one at a time without any problem), and your consultant is telling you that you can't take advantage of the Open Licensing Programs because of this, they obviously have not read the simple method I have been telling Partners to use to accommodate this.

6) If they tell you, "It is too complicated to explain the differences in plain English," then let me do it for them.

7) If they tell you that you can't use 2007 because your other machines aren't running Office 2007, they're wrong:

  • First, we have the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack which allows users of Office 2000, Office XP or Office 2003 to open, edit, and save files using the file formats new to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007
    • Before installing the Office Compatibility Pack, please install all High-Priority updates from Microsoft Update
    • The Office Compatibility Pack is available for download HERE
  • Second, for the users with Office 2007, if they want to save their documents as a prior version they can click the Office button in the upper left-hand corner of the window, then click “Save As,” then click the previous version.
  • Third, we also have an online learning course available for learning the new Office 2007 User Interface: Introduction to the New Microsoft Office Fluent User Interface

So if you are a business owner and you are thinking to yourself, "We've Gotta Guy" or "We've Gotta Girl" that handles our technology already, if your "Guy" or "Girl" is recommending you spend money on old technology that you can physically lose with less rights and benefits instead of spending less money with more options and license protection for your business to protect your investments and save you money, it might be time to fire them and find someone who can give you better guidance.  You might want to look for a Microsoft Small Business Specialist to help you out.  If you see an SBSC offering you Office Retail Box (or any Server product Retail Box), speak up and let us know.

As a follow-up, part 2 of this post is here: Did I get your attention? (Fire your consultant!)

Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric Ligman
Microsoft US Senior Manager
Small Business Community Engagement
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

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  • Dear Microsoft,

    How many years have you had to create licensing rules that make sense?  After all that time, what percentage of your own employees do you think could explain your licensing terms across product lines?  Let's face it, less than 10% could even explain licensing for just the Office product line.

    Yet, you are suggesting consultants who infrequently specify Microsoft product be fired if they approach it in a way that you don't like?  I hate to break it to you, but in my world, this is a very small issue.

    MS - I suggest you get your own house in order first.  If you followed your own suggestion, the Redmond campus would be a very lonely place...

  • Wow, I'm just amazed at the complexity of Microsoft's licensing.  It takes a Microsoft US Senior Manager from the Small Business Community Engagement division to explain it. Thank you, but I can download Open Office for FREE and install it on as many computers as the small business needs.  Oops.

  • What would you recommend in the following case:

    -Client's PC needs to be replaced

    -Client uses proprietary software as the core software for their business

    -Said software relies on Access for its report generation

    -Vendor of said software has made clear they absolutely will not support the software if trying to use Access 2007, and is not providing a time-frame in which this would be supported

    -Client has tens of thousands of dollars tied up in the proprietary software and its maintenance, so is unwilling to consider any other alternatives

    -Using other Office 2007 software (Word, Excel, etc.) will not cause any problems

  • Perhaps you don't realize that some people don't necessarily WANT Office 2007, or that your "compatiblity pack" doesn't actually work as marketed.  Or that not every older Access database converts cleanly to Office 2007.  Or that SMB business owners don't have the time, money, or staffing necessary to retrain their employees in the new, less than intuitive interface.  Which may, in turn, explain the increase in OpenOffice users.

    Either way, telling business owners to fire their consultants is rather irresponsible on your part, especially since it takes a Microsoft Licensing Specialist to even try to explain your myriad methods of licensing and special pricing for select customers.

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  • @ Mary - So what part of "If they sold you an Open License of Office 2007 (which costs less) instead of the Retail Box of Office 2003 (which costs more), you could use the downgrade rights included in the Open License rights which means you could install Office 2003 today if you want to," led you to believe I was saying you had to use Office 2007 today???  Also, did you download the side-by-side comparisons I posted links to?  I don't think those require a license expert to explain.  "Red is bad, green is good,"

  • @ software user: I used to explain this when I was a Partner and when I worked for a Partner before that.  My role today has nothing to do with being able to explain to a customer a way to use business licensing for a business vs. a consumer product which costs them more and gets them less.

  • @ dkerfoot: I'm not even talking about specific product licensing in this post.  Sure, I used Office as an example; however, this is a basic concept I am explaining here.  Use business licensing (Volume Licensing) for businesses and not consumer product (Retail Box).  I even did it for you: https://partner.microsoft.com/us/40028811

  • Hi Eric,

    Thanks very much for this timely article - I shall now use this article to inform the "license specialists" (who supposedly are certified in License Solutions) at a certain Large Account Reseller (LAR) with whom I'm having ongoing disputes over licensing for a small business client (6 PCs) of mine.

    They're pushing retail Office and I'm suggesting VL Office for the reasons you've stated above. Because I'm not a LAR, I don't get listened to, even when I sit down and go through he licensing with them.

    The problem is the licensing is complex, the client gets impatient and confused, and listens to the so-called "experts" - because bigger is better apparently.

    So in your quest for further education, please don't forget the target of the license specialist in the large reseller space. I'm finding more and more that they're either misinformed or only have a facile understanding of the licensing options, especially in the SMB/lower volume space.

    Complexity is the source of confusion, so simpler licensing all round would help users, business owners and partners (big and small).

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