Ballmer admits Licensing 6.0 problems for users

On a mission to "help people realise their full potential", Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer flew into Sydney this week inviting Australian IT managers to resolve their 'licensing issues' by dealing with him directly.

At a media conference today in which Ballmer breathlessly repeated that he was "so excited" and "psyched" to be here, the colourful CEO admitted enterprise customers are having problems with Licensing 6.0, but they can e-mail him directly on steveb@microsoft.com, he said.

"Licensing 6.0 didn't change our prices, just our volume discounting and if there is a problem drop me an e-mail and let's work on the issues; we will address any commercial concerns together," he said.

Microsoft Australia managing director Paul Houghton, who was also "so excited", offered his e-mail also paulh@microsoft.com to resolve any licensing concerns in the enterprise.

Ballmer said he will be attending a dinner tonight of up to 30 enterprise customers as well as meeting with about half a dozen of company's biggest Australian clients, but would not disclose who they are or the nature of the talks.

He claimed the company's top 100 clients had shifted to the new licensing arrangements, introduced in August, with Houghton adding the take-up figure in Australia stood at "about 60 per cent".

Asked about the remaining 40 per cent in Australia, Ballmer admitted Microsoft "could have managed the [transition] process better; explained it better, but we had other collateral issues"; however, he did not elaborate.

"Take-up here has been reasonably strong, but that doesn't mean customers don't have problems with the changes; some aren't ready to move or upgrade, some are already happy with what they have and don't need to upgrade," Ballmer said.

Introduced on August 1, Licensing 6.0 signalled a shift to annuity-based Software Assurance licences, a move away from single-version upgrade licences.

Gartner claims Open, and Select Office customers who drop their traditional version upgrade in favour of the yearly rental SA model will pay between 35 and 107 per cent more to upgrade in future. The figures apply to shops that upgrade every three to four years.

Espousing the value of Windows, Ballmer said StarOffice was a weak alternative offering very little innovation, while Linux was just another 'cloning-type system'.

His mission, he said, launching a Pocket PC, an integrated GSM/GPRS mobile phone/PDA in conjunction with Telstra, was to provide software that enables people to realise their full potential to be knowledge workers.

- Helen Han contributed to this report.

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