Becta – pouring oil on troubled water

It’s been nice to see some thawing in the relationship between Becta and Microsoft. To be honest, this has taken too long, because Becta’s snappy catchline “Leading Next Generation Learning” is what we’re all about too.

Yesterday they published their press releaseBecta welcomes substantial progress in discussions with Microsoft”, which has sparked off a series of articles, like Merlin John's "Peace at last? Becta and Microsoft edge closer", The Journal's "Becta Gains Ground in Interoperability for Education" and ZD Net's "Microsoft licensing switch pleases Becta"

The press release also previews a pilot of a new licensing scheme that will be available next year, to supplement the existing Schools Agreement option. Although the detail isn’t yet available, some of the changes are highlighted in the Becta release:

“The UK will pilot a new Microsoft licensing scheme that removes the requirement for schools using subscription agreements to pay Microsoft to licence systems that are using their competitors' technologies. So for the first time schools using Microsoft's subscription licensing agreements can decide for themselves how much of their ICT estate to licence.

Schools opting to use the pilot licensing programme can choose to stop paying Microsoft licence fees for Apple Mac or Linux computers which are not actually running any Microsoft software. Computers running open source products such as would also no longer attract Microsoft licensing fees. Importantly such schools will also be able to decline to licence products such as Vista on systems that are technically incapable of running it. There are also now options for schools to license based on the number of users, rather than the number of PCs, or a combination of the two.”

The Becta release is very specifically comparing the new scheme to Schools Agreement, even though the majority of schools don’t use it. So don’t panic – after reading their news release, you might think you’re being forced to license computers you don’t run our software on! You’re not. With Select licences, you license as many or as few as you want, for a perpetual licence. Schools Agreements are mainly used by schools who want to simply count all of their computers, and license them all for a standard set of software. Not only does it save hassle, but the initial cost is lower.

When the details start to emerge on the pilot scheme, I’ll definitely cover them here.

Licensing is complex* – if you want an easy to understand story, then take a look at this blog post (it’s one of the most popular on the blog!)

How to get the best deal on Microsoft software in education

* Yes, licensing is complex. Even the spelling is complex. In the US, they just say “license”. Whereas we say “licence” for the noun, and “license” for the verb. So I’m constantly confused over sentences like “To license 10 PCs I need 10 licences

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