I’m sure all of you remember when Windows as a Service was introduced with Windows 10. Most people thought this was really “Windows as a Subscription” and that Microsoft was somehow going to charge everyone for the right to continue using Windows. But in reality, that was introduced many years earlier, in the enterprise space at least (and I’m sure they’d love to have a consumer equivalent, but so far that hasn’t materialized), through Software Assurance for Windows.
I don’t recall exactly when Software Assurance was introduced, although it was certainly sometime during the Windows XP timeframe, prior to the release of Windows Vista. At that point, there was not yet an Enterprise SKU of Windows, so that’s not what you were paying for. So what were the benefits? Free upgrades to later releases (upgrade to Vista, yea!) was one of the items of course, but there were other benefits. By accident, I found that Microsoft is still hosting a paper published by Gartner in 2006 that breaks down the benefits:
So, for $40 per PC per year, you got all of these items, plus other things like Windows PE (which wasn’t publicly available at that point), training vouchers, home use rights, corporate error reporting (remember that one?), support, etc. A bargain, right?
Over the years, Software Assurance for Windows has continued to evolve. The most direct replacement is Windows Enterprise E3, the details of which you can find here.
So how much is Windows Enterprise E3? It depends on how you buy it (and large companies likely get discounts), but the simplest price is $7 per user per month (sold by partners through the CSA program), or $84 per year. (With the shift from “per device” to “per user” licensing, it’s not exactly the same, but if your org has mostly 1:1 PC use, meaning each person has their own PC, it’s going to work out the same.) That’s a little more than normal inflation, as $40/year in 2006 would be $53/year now.
At the same time, many companies have also licensed Office 365 as a subscription, and perhaps EMS E3 as well, and then upgraded to Microsoft 365 E3 (containing all three of those subscriptions) for $32 per user per month, or $384 per user per year. And if you step up even more to Microsoft 365 E5, that would be $57 per user per month, or $684 per user per year.
Wow, that’s a lot of money. As a Microsoft shareholder, I thank you for all of that recurring subscription revenue, as that’s what keeps the stock price high. (I would highly recommend talking to the very qualified folks at Directions on Microsoft to see if they can help you reduce what you pay.)
Categories: Windows 11
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