Big businesses that want to dive into Vista don't have to wait until January 30 to get their hands on Microsoft's long-awaited operating system. Now small businesses that have the hardware to handle Vista won't have to wait either.
In a little more than two weeks, Microsoft and CompUSA will make the new Vista Business operating system and Microsoft Office 2007 software or any other Microsoft Small Business product available to small businesses interested in buying five or more licenses.
This marks the first time that SMB owners will be able to buy Microsoft products at volume discounts in a retail setting. The program goes into effect November 30, which means small businesses will be able to buy the anticipated operating system and other programs two months prior to the general availability date of January 30.
The effort dubbed the Microsoft Small Business Value Program is designed to both educate small businesses to the economic advantages of volume licensing and to make those benefits available in a retail setting.
"More than 50 percent of small business owners buy software at retail stores, and their awareness of volume-discount pricing is fairly low," says Cindy Bates, Microsoft's general manager, small business group. "With this program, we're aiming to give small business owners who need five or more licenses a simple, more affordable way to purchase Microsoft technology."
The new program offers two ways to buy the Open Value option or the Open Business option. According to Microsoft, Open Value lets you purchase your software licenses at a volume discount and spread the payments out over a three-year period, a feature that SMBs with cash-flow issues might find attractive. It also includes Microsoft Software Assurance.
Microsoft says that Software Assurance helps your business stay current by providing upgrades (during the three-year term) to the software programs that you buy. It also includes license tracking and technical and employee training, which can improve efficiency. Assurance also provides 24x7 phone support to increase business productivity by reducing downtime.
Pricing for Software Assurance varies depending on the applications that you buy, but Microsoft says the price is "traditionally 29 percent over the cost of the original license for desktop products and 25 percent over the license for server products." In the Open Value plan, the cost of Assurance can also be spread over a three-year period.
With Open Business, you purchase your software licenses upfront with an option of buying the Software Assurance add-on listed above. Bates said that buying through the volume license program would equate to at least a 10 percent savings over buying single copies the software for each computer.
Although the Microsoft Small Business Value Program is available at retail, Bates notes that the buying process differs a bit from the traditional retail experience. "Small business owners don't walk out the door with a box of software in their hands," says Bates. "They first talk to a CompUSA professional at the business desk who helps them decide which programs and the number of licenses they need. They take home a product kit that contains a product key. They go back to the office and use the key to download the software to their systems."
The Microsoft Small Business Value Program is initially available at 160 of CompUSA's 230 nationwide stores, but Bates says that the company plans to roll it out to other retailers in 2007.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
Dan Muse contributed to this story.
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