Users have angrily rejected promises by Microsoft that changes to enterprise software licensing terms and conditions would only be made for the benefit of customers and with their consultation.
"That's rubbish, it's read it and weep," one IT manager, working for a global Fortune 500 company, fumed.
"Globally, we've had a lot of trouble negotiating contracts with Microsoft; in North America it got to the point where [its] sales reps walked out."
Robert Rob, executive director of Health Technologies, also disputed Microsoft's claims. "There are already a number of [licensing] options that purport to provide packaged benefits to users, but unless an organisation manages licence by licence, Microsoft is way out in front because ... you tend to buy a whole new licence every time you buy a new piece of equipment."
Users who spoke to Computerworld also reacted furiously to suggestions that ongoing changes to licensing terms and conditions could increase by 50 per cent each year the total cost of owning Microsoft enterprise products until 2002.
Tony Atello, business processes IS manager at GUD Manufacturing, commented: "I find [Microsoft's licensing policies] outrageous and that is why we haven't upgraded to any of its new products."
Atello claimed his company is still running Office 95 because Microsoft changed its concurrent pricing policy.
He added: "We are definitely considering alternative products to Microsoft, like Corel and Linux."
Rob said if licensing arrangements increased the total cost of enterprise software ownership he too was likely to defer the upgrade of Microsoft products "until we absolutely had to take them up".
The Fortune 500 IT manager added he was not surprised that Microsoft was likely to continue changing licensing arrangements. "It is a further demonstration that Microsoft can hold customers to ransom," he said.
Another IT manager, who did not wish to be named, said: "If prices were to go up by 50 per cent it would have a major impact on large organisations and force them to look for alternatives.
But Gary Robertson, network and communications manager at manufacturing company, Searle, argued market forces would prevent Microsoft increasing the cost of software beyond the reach of enterprise customers.