Changes to Action Pack licensing – undocumented, unwelcome, unwise

Changes to Action Pack licensing – undocumented, unwelcome, unwise

If you don’t know what the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription is, you probably won’t care about this blog post and you can stop reading now.

If you do know what MAPS is, you might be interested in the following e-mail that I just sent to several managers at Microsoft:

I am writing to express my objections to a recently announced policy regarding the licenses associated with the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription. The policy was described in the Small Business Community Blog on Friday, January 12 (

I have always understood that licenses for software included in the Action Pack expire if and when the recipient terminates his Action Pack subscription. This much is very clear in the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription Initiative Addendum ( However, this newly announced policy goes beyond that to say that each software license also expires at the end of each annual subscription, if a new version of that software has been released.

In other words, when my subscription is renewed in April 2007, I will no longer have rights to use Windows Server or Small Business Server 2003 SP1, Office 2003, Windows XP (other than OEM copies), and several other programs. I will be required to upgrade all of these programs to their then-current versions.

My objections to the policy announced in the Blog are as follows:

UNDOCUMENTED: I do not believe that this policy is consistent with the MAPS Initiative Addendum, the software EULAs, and the MAPS literature in general. If there is legally binding language consistent with this policy, please provide a reference to it. I do not consider a blog post to be legally binding.

UNWELCOME: To my knowledge, Microsoft does not require any other licensees to upgrade to new software versions. Microsoft recognizes the importance of “downgrade rights” and touts them as a benefit of its volume licensing programs. Microsoft partners have many valid reasons to continue running previous software versions, including the ability to support our customers who have not yet upgraded and the ability to test cross-compatibility between platforms. For example, I cannot effectively test or demonstrate the difference in functionality between Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003 with regard to SharePoint synchronization if I am no longer authorized to run Outlook 2003.

UNWISE: I cannot imagine how Microsoft benefits from this policy. Perhaps the rationale is that by forcing partners to upgrade, the partners will in turn encourage or even require their customers to upgrade as well. But this is poor reasoning. Microsoft partners are by their nature early adopters of new technology. We are eager to install and learn new software versions. Indeed, until today one of the biggest complaints about the Action Pack is that the shipment of Vista and Office 2007 is coming so much later than the RTM date. All Microsoft is doing by invalidating our previous version licenses is taking away our ability to support and understand those previous versions and forcing us to upgrade on a timeframe that is determined by Microsoft rather than by ourselves.

In summary, this policy regarding the termination of rights to previous versions is contrary to the goals and rules of the Action Pack and should be eliminated.

I would be happy to clarify and elaborate on these comments at any time. Thank you for your consideration and action.

David Schrag

For more, see blog entries by Vlad Mazek and Susan Bradley.

Update, February 13, 2007: Microsoft seems to have changed its position on this. MAPS software licenses now remain valid for the life of the subscription. They do not expire at the end of each subscription year. A webcast on February 14 will clarify this policy and answer other questions. See the webcast announcement and a wiki I created to collect questions in advance of the webcast.

Posted in All, MS Licensing, Software, Technology on Jan 13th, 2007, 11:21 am by David Schrag   

5 Responses

  1. mdalligood
    January 13th, 2007 | 3:58 pm

    David. Could you provide contact information to the proper individuals concerning this matter? I am open for a professional debate regarding MAPS. I believe this is a mistake by MAPS, and should be handled quickly. I would appreciate any information you can provide so I can voice my opinion regarding this matter. I have already emailed Eric Ligman since I read it on his blog first, as well as Trika Harms zum Spreckel. I know they will respond to my request or pass the email on to those who need to see it.

  2. January 13th, 2007 | 4:06 pm

    Hi, mdalligood. I have been advised by Eric Ligman that this issue has been “escalated” inside Microsoft. Perhaps we will see a change announced soon. I wish I could tell you who the proper individuals to contact are, but I don’t know. I basically blitzed all the Microsoft people I’ve met at various conferences who have anything to do with small business or licensing. Keep an eye on Eric’s blog for updates.

  3. February 15th, 2007 | 1:21 pm

    […] Action Pack clarification – documented, welcome, wise Never has there been and likely never shall there be a more tumultuous month for the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS) than what we’ve just been through. It was bad enough that Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange 2007 were released to the public well before the January Action Pack shipped, and that Exchange 2007 will have to wait until April for MAPS subscribers. Then came the announcement that MAPS software licenses all expired at the end of each annual subscription, forcing subscribers to upgrade to the latest products if they wanted to keep their licenses valid. Couple that with the sudden realization among many subscribers (myself not include, I must point out) that there was a change made last July regarding Windows desktop licenses (they are now upgrade-only, rather than full versions). […]

  4. March 18th, 2013 | 2:44 pm

    I know this is a very old post, but do you know if Microsoft still maintains this policy?

  5. March 18th, 2013 | 10:02 pm

    Sorry, I have no idea.

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