Business owners: Fire any consultant who tries to sell you Office 2003, especially Retail Box


I post this because I actually saw a reseller earlier today trying to locate Office 2003 Retail Box product to sell to their customer.  If you are that customer and you read this, it may be time to find a new consultant!  Why?  Many, many, many reasons but it mostly comes down to one of two things:

1) They are not looking to provide you with the best option since they are selling you something that will cost you more in the short-term and the long-term (Maybe they are just trying to get more money out of you without you knowing it)

2) They have no idea what they are recommending or how to sell Microsoft products (Someone actually replied back to this reseller and recommended buying from an online auction site!  Considering there is a 90+% chance it is counterfeit or illegal if you buy it there, please do NOT buy your Microsoft software from ANY auction site or you may be adding an additional cost from fines for running illegal software)

How do we know that one or both of the two prior statements are true?  Simple:

1) Selling you a Retail Box version of Office (any version) means you are paying more than you should as a business.  You could buy a license of Office through the Open Business Volume Licensing Program and save money while also getting additional benefits such as: electronic license protection, downgrade rights, and much more.  Here are some side-by-side comparisons I posted earlier to the Blog:

2) If they sold you an Open License of Office 2007 (which costs less) instead of the Retail Box of Office 2003 (which costs more), you could use the downgrade rights included in the Open License rights which means you could install Office 2003 today if you want to, then when you are ready to move to Office 2007, you could do so without having to purchase anything else for those machines.  By them selling you Office 2003, when you want to move to Office 2007, you not only paid more the first time, now you need to spend more money to get the Office 2007 license to move to the new version.

    • If they tell you that you can “downgrade” your Retail Box version, run!  Retail Box and OEM licenses of Office have NO downgrade rights at all.  Your consultant really has no idea what they are telling you since they are actually informing you to illegally install a prior version of Office!

3) By selling you a Retail Box version, they are making you responsible for tracking a paper license that you could lose, which would mean that you no longer have a license to run Office on those machines.  Had they sold you an Open License for Office, your license would be an electronic license that you cannot lose.  You can see more on this HERE.

4) If they tell you that you need 5 PCs to qualify for the Open Licensing Programs, they have no idea what they are talking about.

5) If you are looking for less than 5 Microsoft Office licenses and you do not already have an Open License or Open Value Agreement in place (if you do, you can purchase one at a time without any problem), and your consultant is telling you that you can’t take advantage of the Open Licensing Programs because of this, they obviously have not read the simple method I have been telling Partners to use to accommodate this.

6) If they tell you, “It is too complicated to explain the differences in plain English,” then let me do it for them.

7) If they tell you that you can’t use 2007 because your other machines aren’t running Office 2007, they’re wrong:

  • First, we have the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack which allows users of Office 2000, Office XP or Office 2003 to open, edit, and save files using the file formats new to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007

    • Before installing the Office Compatibility Pack, please install all High-Priority updates from Microsoft Update

    • The Office Compatibility Pack is available for download HERE

  • Second, for the users with Office 2007, if they want to save their documents as a prior version they can click the Office button in the upper left-hand corner of the window, then click “Save As,” then click the previous version.

  • Third, we also have an online learning course available for learning the new Office 2007 User Interface: Introduction to the New Microsoft Office Fluent User Interface

So if you are a business owner and you are thinking to yourself, “We’ve Gotta Guy” or “We’ve Gotta Girl” that handles our technology already, if your “Guy” or “Girl” is recommending you spend money on old technology that you can physically lose with less rights and benefits instead of spending less money with more options and license protection for your business to protect your investments and save you money, it might be time to fire them and find someone who can give you better guidance.  You might want to look for a Microsoft Small Business Specialist to help you out.  If you see an SBSC offering you Office Retail Box (or any Server product Retail Box), speak up and let us know.

As a follow-up, part 2 of this post is here: Did I get your attention? (Fire your consultant!)

Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric Ligman
Microsoft US Senior Manager
Small Business Community Engagement
This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights

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Comments (30)

  1. dkerfoot says:

    Dear Microsoft,

    How many years have you had to create licensing rules that make sense?  After all that time, what percentage of your own employees do you think could explain your licensing terms across product lines?  Let’s face it, less than 10% could even explain licensing for just the Office product line.

    Yet, you are suggesting consultants who infrequently specify Microsoft product be fired if they approach it in a way that you don’t like?  I hate to break it to you, but in my world, this is a very small issue.

    MS – I suggest you get your own house in order first.  If you followed your own suggestion, the Redmond campus would be a very lonely place…

  2. a software user says:

    Wow, I’m just amazed at the complexity of Microsoft’s licensing.  It takes a Microsoft US Senior Manager from the Small Business Community Engagement division to explain it. Thank you, but I can download Open Office for FREE and install it on as many computers as the small business needs.  Oops.

  3. What would you recommend in the following case:

    -Client’s PC needs to be replaced

    -Client uses proprietary software as the core software for their business

    -Said software relies on Access for its report generation

    -Vendor of said software has made clear they absolutely will not support the software if trying to use Access 2007, and is not providing a time-frame in which this would be supported

    -Client has tens of thousands of dollars tied up in the proprietary software and its maintenance, so is unwilling to consider any other alternatives

    -Using other Office 2007 software (Word, Excel, etc.) will not cause any problems

  4. Mary says:

    Perhaps you don’t realize that some people don’t necessarily WANT Office 2007, or that your "compatiblity pack" doesn’t actually work as marketed.  Or that not every older Access database converts cleanly to Office 2007.  Or that SMB business owners don’t have the time, money, or staffing necessary to retrain their employees in the new, less than intuitive interface.  Which may, in turn, explain the increase in OpenOffice users.

    Either way, telling business owners to fire their consultants is rather irresponsible on your part, especially since it takes a Microsoft Licensing Specialist to even try to explain your myriad methods of licensing and special pricing for select customers.

  5. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Mary – So what part of "If they sold you an Open License of Office 2007 (which costs less) instead of the Retail Box of Office 2003 (which costs more), you could use the downgrade rights included in the Open License rights which means you could install Office 2003 today if you want to," led you to believe I was saying you had to use Office 2007 today???  Also, did you download the side-by-side comparisons I posted links to?  I don’t think those require a license expert to explain.  "Red is bad, green is good,"

  6. mssmallbiz says:

    @ software user: I used to explain this when I was a Partner and when I worked for a Partner before that.  My role today has nothing to do with being able to explain to a customer a way to use business licensing for a business vs. a consumer product which costs them more and gets them less.

  7. mssmallbiz says:

    @ dkerfoot: I’m not even talking about specific product licensing in this post.  Sure, I used Office as an example; however, this is a basic concept I am explaining here.  Use business licensing (Volume Licensing) for businesses and not consumer product (Retail Box).  I even did it for you:

  8. Chris Knight says:

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks very much for this timely article – I shall now use this article to inform the "license specialists" (who supposedly are certified in License Solutions) at a certain Large Account Reseller (LAR) with whom I’m having ongoing disputes over licensing for a small business client (6 PCs) of mine.

    They’re pushing retail Office and I’m suggesting VL Office for the reasons you’ve stated above. Because I’m not a LAR, I don’t get listened to, even when I sit down and go through he licensing with them.

    The problem is the licensing is complex, the client gets impatient and confused, and listens to the so-called "experts" – because bigger is better apparently.

    So in your quest for further education, please don’t forget the target of the license specialist in the large reseller space. I’m finding more and more that they’re either misinformed or only have a facile understanding of the licensing options, especially in the SMB/lower volume space.

    Complexity is the source of confusion, so simpler licensing all round would help users, business owners and partners (big and small).

  9. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Chris Knight – If you want to forward us the name of the LAR that is suggesting Retail Box to Small Businesses as opposed to Volume Licensing offline, you can click the "speak up and let us know" link above to do so.  Volume Licensing is available for companies with as few as 2 PCs and if they are saying something different, that is a misconception we need to address.

  10. David Schrag says:

    If the powers that be at Microsoft have no qualms about letting people buy a cheap SoftGrid license that they have no intention of using as a way into the volume licensing program, why not just eliminate the 5-license minimum and let folks buy one license at a time from the get-go? I’m guessing it has to do with promises made to either the retail resellers or the OEM vendors about protecting their sales channels. Am I close?

  11. dkerfoot says:

    That is nice, but it doesn’t address my point.  You chose to title your piece with an inflammatory headline, saying we should be fired.  I was just admiring my reflection in your pretty glass house.

    I asked you what percentage of MS employees could explain licensing across product lines.  I’d love an answer.

    Do you disagree that perhaps 10% could explain even Office licensing?  If so, what percent would you say can?

    Now, here is the critical part – you are just one vendor out of the hundreds that I deal with.  I know it is shocking, but it is true.  Now, before you start counting all the software manufacturers I might use, please remember that like most consultants I am dealing with hardware and cable and sub-contractors and etc…

    You good folks in Redmond have only one vendor to worry about, yet you still can’t explain your own licensing.  Please tell me: Who needs to be fired, in order to make licensing so easy that even Microsoft employees can explain it?

    Ready for another critical point?  Even with all those vendors to worry about, sales of all kinds is a very small part of my business.  Perhaps 10%.

    And yet, you have the nerve to suggest that not following your little lock-em in and force an upgrade every 2-3 years scheme is cause for us to be fired?  Are you really so separated from how we serve our customers as to think that our primary value (to the customer – we certainly understand it is all you care about) is funneling them into the "proper" licensing scheme?  

    Finally, please stop pretending that the licensing is so complex because you are trying to save the customer money.  If that were true, all of your products would have one price – the one Dell pays.

    I am no Microsoft basher.  I like most of your products, a few are actually best in class.  If nothing else, you certainly are the convenient choice.  But, your "fire your consultant" line is pure arrogance.  The reality is, you just aren’t that important to me.  

  12. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Schrag – People can buy as many licenses for items they aren’t going to use as they want.  I used to add MS Press books to my customer’s orders to get them over the 5 minimum when I owned my company.  Granted they could use the MS Press books, but it was still the same premise.  Before anyone goes and looks, no, MS Press books are no longer on the pricelist and came off many years ago.  :-)  The 5 minimum is because it is a Volume Licensing program and not intended for individuals.  It has nothing to do with agreements with Retail or OEM vendors.  Open used to have a 50 license minimum when it first came out in 1993, then it dropped to 25, then ultimately to the 5 it is at now back around 2001.  Canada actually has a 3 license minimum for their Open License Program.

  13. As I expected, since publishing my, “ Business owners: Fire any consultant who tries to sell you

  14. As I expected, since publishing my, “ Business owners: Fire any consultant who tries to sell

  15. David Schrag says:

    Eric, once again you have answered one of my questions by explaining how things DO work as opposed to talking about how things SHOULD work. I understand that it’s perfectly legal for someone to buy one copy of something useful and four copies of something cheap and useless. My question is really "don’t you think that’s insane?" OK, the volume license program is not intended for individuals. But do you really think that if the minimum purchase were lowered to one copy that suddenly boxed product sales at Best Buy and Staples would fall to zero as home users made a mad dash to Suggestion: rename the program from "Volume Licensing" to "E-Licensing" (kind of like airlines’ E-ticketing) and do away with the volume requirements altogether. If Canada can drop to 3, certainly the US can drop to 1.

  16. mssmallbiz says:

    @ Schrag – I never said the Volume Licensing minimum is not working like it "should."  Your question was why the 5 minimum at all and that’s what I answered.  The term "volume" in the name is not jsut about the initial purchase, it is representative of the fact that generally businesses buy a larger quantity of licenses over time, thus a higher volume of transactions and acquisitions.  Your statement of, "If Canada can drop to 3, certainly the US can drop to 1," is based on what facts?  I don’t think you are going to see the minimum removed from the Volume Licensing programs completely in the near future.

  17. dkerfoot says:

    Two points in response to your follow on posting:

    1.  You keep sidestepping the issue about licensing complexity (what elephant?  I don’t see any elephant)

    2. I don’t assume you have always worked at Microsoft.  If anything, you overwork the "I used to be in the trenches just like you guys" shtick ad-nauseum.  I just consider your ending up at Microsoft to be an admission of failure.  If you were good at it, you would still be doing it.  

    OK, a third point:  I hope you don’t really think anyone believes you when you claim "I wasn’t getting enough participation, so I carefully planned this posting to attract a response.  Uh yeah, that’s it, that’s the ticket…"

    Clearly, I disagree with much of what you have posted, but trying to put a spin on the negative response you received is particularly unfortunate.  I think you are wrong about the rest, but the attempt at spin reflects a lack (or at least a lapse) of character.

  18. mssmallbiz says:

    @ dkerfoot –

    1) I’m not side-stepping anything.  My post specifically calls out a basic premise: Retail Box software costs more than Open License and it provides less rights than Open License software.  Is that really all that complicated to understand?  We’re not talking about how products are licensed, or how terminal services works, or any potentially complicated issues in this post.

    2) If it helps you sleep better at night to consider my growing a company from 2 PCs to having customers in over 25 countries, millions in annual sales, and being one of the top VL transacters in the area a failure, you can feel free to think what you wish.  I know I won’t lose any sleep over it.

    3) I think you would benefit from speaking with some of the folks that have been part of the MSSMALLBIZ Community for a long time because I think they would tell you this isn’t the first time I’ve done this and it won’t be the last.  Ironically, the CRN article on Friday even stated, "Ligman has been known to take controversial stances at times in order to get his point across to Microsoft’s small business community."  You may want to do a little more research before making inaccurate statements such as your comment.  Besides, do you really believe I posted this thinking there wouldn’t be a response?  There was a response when I sent physical letters to customers asking if their resellers told them they were overcharging them by selling them Retail Box in the past, so why wouldn’t I expect it here too?

    4) I guarantee you I am not spinning anything.  I’ll be very direct.  If you truly believe what you are saying and that you are selling Retail Box to your business clients, you ARE overcharging your clients, you ARE selling them a license that provides limited rights, and you ARE wrong.  Is that direct enough for you?  Those are facts, not opinion.  Read the EULAs and look at the ERP prices.  It’s pretty straight forward.

  19. What an interesting week it has been. Since my original An upgrade is an upgrade. Apparently some people