A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the retirement of the TechNet subscription service. As expected, there was a noticeable outcry in the technophile blogosphere. At the time of this writing, about 6,500 signed the petition for the continuation of the service; 1,000 signatures are still needed.

When I first learned about the TechNet subscription services, I was quite surprised about Microsoft’s generosity. It was obvious to me that there must be a lot of abuse. The temptation for an organization to use TechNet licenses on production systems instead of buying licenses must be high.

I suppose making the unpopular decision to retire the service wasn’t easy for Microsoft and I am sure they tried to calculate the loss caused by the abuse. How many will buy licenses after the service closes? However, I somehow doubt that these calculations are reliable. It is not just because not everyone who used a TechNet license instead of a legal license on a production system will continue using this Microsoft product or move to the more expensive MSDN subscription service.

There are two things to consider here. First of all, I believe the whole Microsoft platform will be less interesting to some IT pros. As long there are no real alternatives in corporate IT, this is not really a problem for Microsoft. However, the speed at which Microsoft lost market shares in the consumer market made many realize that changes are now coming much faster than in former times.

Imagine a geek who focused on Microsoft technology but also loves his iPad or Android tablet and the corresponding cloud services. How many will think that perhaps this is a good time to at least have a closer look at alternative technologies and ecosystems? I wouldn’t dare to estimate these numbers and the corresponding long-term loss for Microsoft.

Second, even those IT pros who despise all this post-PC babbling might no longer be encouraged to always try the latest releases. Microsoft can partially compensate by offering free limited-time evaluation licenses. The question is if this is really an equivalent alternative.

IT pros are busy people. You often start trying a new product and then you have to stop the project because something more urgent needs your attention. Then you finally come back to your test environment only to realize that weeks of installation and configuration are lost because the test license is no longer valid. How many will get annoyed and just stay with the old version? Never change a running system, especially if you can’t really run long-term tests with the new system. How much loss for Microsoft? All the math geniuses on the planet couldn’t reliably calculate these numbers.

Of course, Microsoft’s management is aware of these considerations. Since they made the decision anyway, the calculated loss because of the abuse of TechNet licenses must be really big. Remember the Genuine campaign, the introduction of registered license keys for Windows and Office? Not very popular decisions. Did it pay off for Microsoft? You bet!

The market for server software has become more and more important for Microsoft, especially because the consumer market is breaking away. Thus, even though many IT pros are annoyed now, it might be the right decision from an economical point of view.

So should you sign the petition? I don’t want to give a recommendation. I will just tell you that I didn’t sign in it. I can’t really decide if the move makes economic sense for Microsoft, partly because I didn’t see all the data Microsoft has about the TechNet usage. Thus I am not in the position to tell Microsoft’s management what the right way is. I strongly believe that the people who have all the facts should be the ones making the decisions.

I guess the vast majority of supporters of this petition don’t care much of what is best for Microsoft and just want to continue using the TechNet subscription service. Of course, this is 100% legitimate. Hence, if the service is important for you, then this is a way to tell Microsoft about it. This is valuable information for Microsoft and perhaps they will reconsider their decision.

The other question is, how reliable is the data from an online petition where it is not that difficult for an individual to sign up multiple times? If you sign up, I recommend saying a few words about your reasons in the corresponding form field. It will make it more likely that your vote will be counted.

Let me know if you signed the petition. Are you using the TechNet subscription service? Is the service important for you?

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Also read: TechNet petition counterpoint

40 Comments
  1. Robert 9 years ago

    @Jan: Well the MCP ID method would screw over perfectly legitimate subscribers who don’t have one. Also if they were 180 day keys Microsoft could just set them up to pickup as actual eval keys in Windows so they display the watermark on the desktop. This would raise a red flag with consumers when they use the key. As it stands (as far as I’m aware of) you are limited to one eval key per id normally but with Technet we would be able to reissue new keys as needed.

  2. Michael Pietroforte 9 years ago

    Just to clarify, I am neither for nor against the petition. One thing is for sure, though. Never before was there so much resistance when an IT company retired a product.

    A few commentators suggested to tie the TechNet subscriptions to certifications. I think that this a very bad idea. It is like giving free access to a public swimming pool to those who passed a swim test but let swim champions who won several medals for the country pay just because they never passed a swim test. I think this would be the best way to alienate quite a few IT veterans.

    Perhaps a new MSDN OS package that doesn’t just include operating systems but also System Center for a price significantly below $1000 would be a solution. I think if Office is not included in the package than Microsoft’s loss because of piracy would be minimal.

  3. Bartosz Kurowski 9 years ago

    I started to use the TechNet in 2009. Since then, I am a constant user of TechNet. Through these few years, for the first time, I had the opportunity to install, test and run all Microsoft products and technologies. It build ups my confidence and making a decision to focus on Microsoft products only.

    Having access to the TechNet site, I was able to prepare the test environment and work in such one with new solutions before are being transferred to the production.

    TechNet is a great area of applications and technologies, where any IT Pro can test and then become an expert.

    If the real problem is a piracy, then set licence key per device, where subscriber will notify Microsoft about what hardware is going to be in use.

  4. Michael Siddall 9 years ago

    I signed the petition for two reason

    1. I am Microsoft Certified Professional.

    2. I make a living working in IT.

    I can’t afford a MSDN and most company’s I have worked for never seem to be able to train their employees.

    So I am one of the IT professionals that are required to run labs to keep up my skills up to date at my own cost.

    Us the IT professionals should not be treated like this after time and money certifying on MS products.

    I have signed the petition outlining my concerns

  5. Bob Erwin 9 years ago

    You can’t remove Office from Technet. There are too many integration points with SharePoint, Office 365, Exchange, etc. As I mentioned SkyDrive Pro (which is only included in Office 2013) is a key component to selling Office 2013 and SharePoint. I like the expiring key where you can update it each year without the need to re-install. Microsoft already has this by the KMS or MAC key that forces a product to contact Microsoft to validate the software.

    Thanks!
    Bob

  6. Jason 9 years ago

    I signed the petition. I have used TechNET for several years. I convinced an employer to buy it so I could build a lab and then I bought one for personal use so I could study and practice for the new exams and to re-enforce my skills and was looking to start consulting on the side and planned on using TechNET for demos.

    I don’t know what the solution should be. I like the MCP idea but I can see how that would alienate those who never bothered getting certified. I always felt TechNET would have been a great perk for getting certified.

  7. Jim Jones 9 years ago

    @Bob, I agree that you can’t remove it, but you could greatly restrict the number of actively used seats. Go to a concurrent use model for TechNet as far as office goes; you can install it hundreds of times but it will only work on 5 concurrent installs at a time.

  8. Robert 9 years ago

    @Bob: That’s actually a good idea. Switch it to a KMS model system or something similar. This would also prevent people from reselling them as there are extra steps needed to setup those keys and allow them to work.

  9. Lauren Creech 9 years ago

    Yes I signed the petition, TN is the single most effective tool I have for keeping myself trained on the overall variety of MS offerings in a way that works for me and helps me stay relevant to my customer base.

    I have noticed though in this comment stream that it appears some people are using TN for demonstrating to customers which is a violation of the Tech Net License, but not of the MSDN License.

  10. Stephen Townsley 9 years ago

    I am a TechNet Subscriber. I signed the petition.

    I used TechNet Subscriptions at work but last year I was made redundant in the economic downturn in the UK. So I subscribed personally. Actually it’s a big investment in training of you have just lost your job.

    As an side I observe the even though the technology press all keep saying it was closed down due to piracy the actual statement from Microsoft never mentions that reason. MS say that changes in business practices are the reason.

    My new job involves supporting Netapp storage and I have a ESXi host on small dell server with a Netapp simulator and several different AD configurations to learn about some of the Netapp software products. Some configurations have to be mutually exclusive for some things to work.

    The nature of it means that a stable long term small AD has VMs attached and destroyed as required. A limited eval copy of the OS won’t really do the job.

    I am sad at this change rather than angry. Thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of IT Pros have recommended Microsoft solutions in enterprises through learning it all themselves with a TechNet Subscription. If you are learning at home trying something out on a Saturday afternoon then you may only be catching a few hours a week setting up environments. From this perspective a 30 day or 60 copy of software will have run out just about the time you have got it working properly.

    It was basically great PR for Microsoft. Cancelling wont impact Microsoft’s billion dollar businesses this year. However down the road in 5 years time when an IT Department calls a meeting asking people what they know about a specific new MS technology the enthusiastic advocates will not be there because they wont have learned via TechNet. That may eventually hurt the bottom line more.

  11. Mark Lawryll 9 years ago

    “I have noticed though in this comment stream that it appears some people are using TN for demonstrating to customers which is a violation of the Tech Net License, but not of the MSDN License.”

    Funny, when it benefits Microsoft to the tune of more licenses I don’t hear any one of their employees, even at the Microsoft store presentations, demanding anyone using TechNet to stop. I’ve been using TechNet since the program started 15+ years ago. I remember when becoming an MCSE meant getting a free TechNet subscription along with 10 free PSS incidents, a bomber jacket, a card, a lapel pin, an award statue for your desk, and a framed certificate.

    In all these years, giving presentations at least 50 times for the Microsoft Technology Centers, running assessments via the partner programs, and working directly with TAM and internal Microsoft teams including the old Ranger and the TAP teams – not once – ever – has anyone told me that I can’t use TechNet to help sell licenses. Even the MS employees themselves use TechNet. I’d say half the people attending TechMentor this year in Vegas will be using demos and licenses created from TechNet subscriptions.

    So, not sure what the point is. Does Microsoft hate us for making money or something? Who else, other than a legitimate person willing to sell MS services, would ever want to use TechNet to demo anything? Pirates don’t care about demos – legitimate admins, however, do.

    Does Microsfot really care if we use it to demo? I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be jumping up and down at the opportunity to have ANYONE show off their products in a good light. That said, if MS wants to focus on the semantics about demo usage and turn on us like a snake, then I need to understand they are indeed a snake that will turn on me at any time – with no loyalty – and I need to treat them as such.

    This is such a poor way to treat the people that have been your biggest fans it is just unbelievable. They should jsut shut down the whole TechNet program. Fire everyone who is over the program. Just get rid of them. Then, start up a new program with new leadership. One that can truly help us and provide solutions, not wallow in semantics, FAQ, and ignoring their “customers”.

  12. Michael Pietroforte 9 years ago

    We have a new post about the topic on 4sysops: TechNet petition counterpoint

  13. Ron 9 years ago

    Come on, saying cancelling is a “well thought out decision” is such a fanboi response.

    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be disrespectful calling you a fanboi, but really!, in this case I just have to be.

    You mean to tell me that with it’s Product Key licensing system MS can’t control the use of technet licenses? Of course they can. They’ve already substantially limited the number of keys you can get. All they have to do is just put in a little work to validate who is using the license.

    Calling $6000/yr MSDN (including Office) a reasonable substitute shows you have no connection with reality. For $6000 you can probably BUY all of the licenses you want to test/work with. But who in the real world can cost / benefit justify that.

    Sorry, the decision to cancel a dumb knee-jerk reaction to a bad quarterly profit report (someone is not getting their annual obscene performance bonus), and IMHO your support of the decision is the same dumb knee-jerk reaction.

  14. Michael Pietroforte 9 years ago

    Ron, that’s alright. I am proud to be a fanboi and I also value my good knee-jerk reflexes. 😉 Seriously, I don’t support the decision. I also didn’t say that MSDN is a reasonable substitute. I am only saying that without seeing the data that Microsoft has it is very difficult to tell if the decision makes sense from Microsoft’s point of view. However, I wouldn’t rule out that Microsoft underestimated the long-term effects of the decision.

  15. Craig 9 years ago

    I have signed the petition. I have been a subscriber for 4 years and I use TechNet often to build capabilities we employ at a government site. Many times these small tasks result in the procurement of more Microsoft licenses. If this were just forays into my own projects, Linux would be an option, however that is not an option at the sites I support.

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