Dear Mr. Ballmer:

I’ve emailed you before.. I’ve blogged to you before… I’ve seen you in person before.  You seem like a nice reasonable person.  You’ve said before that your goal is to make licensing easier.

May I publically and respectfully ask another goal?

Can you make it easier for us honest people to be honest.  While I agree with Nick’s comments that he posted to my blog post about the Action pack EULA, and he knows how upset I am about this and agrees with me too, his comments just struck a cord with me.  You see, I want being honest to be easy.  I want being legal to come naturally.  I want being EULA compliant to be a natural thing.  I’d like a world where it’s easier to be license compliant rather than the current world we live in where it’s easier to find a hack on the Internet to crack the activation of Vista than it is to be EULA compliant.  I mean I know you will give us extra cool stuff if we are genuine and all that (check out the Windows Ultimate blog) but it still burns through more hours in the day to properly understand and try to be legal and eula compliant than if I’d just give up and go find one of those cracks on the Internet and be done with it.

About two years ago you started a program to get us stick in the mud CPAs to even deem to look at the Microsoft accounting package and pry our fingers off of Intuit’s Quickbooks.  And the carrot you dangled in front of us USA CPAs was MPAN (Microsoft Accounting Network) and the Action pack software… software that on the MPAN site says it’s “a range of Microsoft desktop and server applications for running your practice”.  Well right now in January of 2007 up to about June of 2007 and even later, the software I need is Windows XP on the desktop.  All of the communication from my vendors state that it won’t be until June that they will be ready to support Vista.  Once my annual subscription of the Action pack needs renewal, the machines that I’ve used the Action pack version of the Desktop OS need to stop being on XP and be instead on Vista.  I’m no longer legally licensed for XP after that renewal.  If I’d stay using those XP licenses that I used from the Action pack after my Action pack subscription renewed, I’d be dishonest.  I don’t like being in this position.

Mr. Ballmer, I don’t think you guys up there in Redmond live enough with the real world of business software.  Maybe when Mr. Gates is focusing on world health issues that he will see the issues of dealing with upgrading… especially in third world countries where the money isn’t there..and even in the USA with critical key health equipment.

If the line of business stuff doesn’t support it… we don’t upgrade.  That’s the bottom line here.

So if you expect the Action pack license to provide for ITPros and MPAN members software that we can use to run our practices and our business, many of our key business stuff can’t handle it yet.

Do I want to run Vista?  Yes.  I’m very excited about Bitlocker and Group policy.  I’m even going to be at a local Best Buy on the weekend you guys will be launching Vista in New York City just so I can be with real users of Vista and not journalists and bloggers with their Mac Power books.  (Okay … I’ll admit… I’m in a weird mood tonight and that was a cheap shot)  I’ll be there with real customers and end users stating the real facts..things like.. you need Quickbooks 2007 to be able to run your accounting app on Vista… that Microsoft Office Accounting 2007 not the 2006 SBA version is the one you’ll need.  I’ll be telling them about parental control rights (that is really cool btw) and all the other cool stuff…and even that you can enable Parental control rights on a domain.  I’ll be there with my two year old laptop showing how Vista can run on older equipment and you just don’t get that 3d taskbar thingy.  (Blowing through all those stories about how it can’t run on older equipment)  But I’ll also be there with my newer box (which I need to use my removable sata trays and build a vista OS) as that one is a newer box that has a better video card that does support it (and does indeed do the 3d view task switcher).

I really and truly WANT to run Vista…but my business needs…. my business software won’t let me.  This is a major upgrade… the first desktop upgrade in five years.  Please can you show reasonableness on your licensing and understand that real people, real businesses, real needs mean that we won’t upgrade overnight.

So can you guys in the licensing division be a little more reasonable about this?

The annual expiration of the Action pack subscription should not force you out of a supported operating system (Windows XP) and to one that your business applications cannot yet run on (Vista).

And may I say too that I’m getting a bit disappointed that someone up there in licensing isn’t thinking about this stuff earlier…that it takes a media/blog event like the historical hullaballoo over the Vista transfer rights and someone like me asking a stupid question that gets answered to get the unreasonableness of these EULAs exposed.  In my var/vap communties all day, folks kept saying that “oh it’s not reasonable that they’d force you to upgrade” or “I hope Microsoft sees a little common sense“.

I hope, you, or someone else will see this as an unreasonable EULA requirement and change it.  And quite time.. think about this stuff before it happens in the future and consider the consequences.  I don’t attempt to even assume to understand your business… but from this side of the wall, this policy just flat out looks stupid and not well thought out at all.  It makes it look like your licensing folks have no real world clue about how difficult operating system deployments can be and how long it’s going to take us to get up to Vista.

As it stands now, I cannot and will not recommend that any CPA sign up for the MPAN program.  Furthermore, I cannot defend Microsoft anymore in my Accounting community when it comes to assuring folks that the licensing terms of the Action pack in the MPAN program may change.  There was a fair number of folks that would not see the value in the Action pack, beleiving that at some point in the future, that Microsoft would change the terms and the resulting damage the firm would incur by relying on these Action pack licenses was a risk they would not take.

This EULA clarification has showcased to them that they cannot trust Microsoft’s action pack licensing terms to run their businesses on.

So Mr. Ballmer? 

When it comes to Vista.. all I ask of you is to be reasonable and patient with us…. please?

The Action pack licensing agreement shouldn’t force us to be on Vista.  Let us learn about it’s good things and want to upgrade when we are ready. 

You’ll have lots happier customers if you do.

Thank you for your time…

Susan Bradley
MPAN member


9 Responses to Dear Mr. Ballmer – I’d like to ask you to understand…

  1. SBS Rocks says:


    How about we get to have a license for the current and the previous versions. Many of the VAPs are in the migration business. Shouldn’t we learn to migrate from Exchange 2003 (even 2000) to the new 2007? How are we going to be able represent microsoft in a positive manner if we don’t have the older bits to test and retrain new staff members. Test beds? etc.?

    SBS Rocks !!!

  2. Andy says:

    I absolutely agree with Susan on this one, it’s crazy not to be allowed to run older software – especially if the action pack agreement ran out the day of (or after) Vista availability. Would it be realistic to suddenly have to migrate the action pack’ed pc’s to Vista overnight? Running a small business I really have better things to do.

  3. Bob Muir says:

    While I’m not quite a cavalier as Nick, I do agree that even were MS to investigate me regarding my AP license, I seriously doubt they would have an issue with the fact that I have a workstation running XP after the “cutover” date.

    Of course, that’s why they should clarify the licensing verbage. I don’t know what they’re afraid of – that we’re not going to eat the dog food?

    Personally, I’m more ticked that we’re not getting licenses to 100% install-from-scratch desktop OS’s. (Thanks to all the non-partners out there buying up AP just so they can populate their business network on the cheap.)

    I like rebuilding my computer each year or so from scratch. It forces me to be current with new hardware knowledge. Having to pay for an OEM license as well as an upgrade license, (from what I’ve read), when I’m already paying for Action Pack is just plain annoying!

    It’ll be interesting to see what shows up in the packet.

  4. Tim Barrett says:

    This isn’t the first time this fiscal year Microsoft has messed with the Action Pack:

    MAPS is losing value faster than a new car being driven off the dealer lot. I really wish they would stop making things more difficult for the Partners and just let us get back to work. So far I’m not digging the “New Day” very much.

  5. Tony Albans says:

    While on the topic of “staying legal”, the requirement for more Server licenses in MAPS remains unresolved! Hilton was doing a poll on the supply of Enterprise in MAPS, (so that we could benefit from the additional virtualisation rights that flow from Enterprise license).
    What is sad, and indicative of lack of understanding of reality combined with unwillingness/inability to change, is that MAPS people have been aware of the Server license count issue since June 2005 (I have the email archives). You simply cannot be legal AND use MAPS in a real world scenario.
    Humbly suggest that it is time that MAPS (in its entirety) is put under the microscope (by someone who understands real world needs of partners (big and small) in terms of product offering, usability, and legality flowing from the EULA.
    What were they thinking?

  6. Bob Muir says:

    Well, it looks like it’s going to get even worse for the folks who want to be 100% legit. Eric has written a nice blog entry on this subject here:

    According to the Action Pack instructions,

    “How can I use the software provided in the subscription?
    The software included with the subscription can be used for internal business use, testing, evaluation, demonstration, training, and education only. For example, you can use the Action Pack software to host your company’s intranet, but it cannot be used to host a commercial website. This is considered a production environment that is outside the scope of the software’s intended purpose.”

    I took that to mean that I couldn’t open up a web store on SBS etc. But it can also be interpreted to mean that I can’t host my SMB Consulting business website on SBS. Not that big a deal, we should use a 3rd party host anyway. But if we can’t run our business website on the SBS, then that probably also means we can’t send and receive email on our SBS since that would no longer be an “internal business use” and would become a “production environment”. Yes?

    Personally, all these years, I’ve been working based on the marketing speak that we could “run our business” on the Action Pack software. However, if you read the instructions explicitly, (as they did to say we cannot run WinXP), then we are NOT permitted to run the AP software in a “production” environment. Which of course means we cannot run our business on it.

    This means that Action Pack is no better than TechNet+ except that it costs $100 more and has less functional software to train with.

  7. Adnan Rafik says:

    I’m totally agree with Susan. According to this statement seems there is no use for Action Pack except doing hands-on. Or in other words MS want us to buy TechNet susbcription?

  8. Floyd Esparaz says:

    Susan, thanks for the heads up on this issue. I emailed a Microsoft SBSC Partner Specialist who forwarded my email to MAPS North America and here’s the response I got:

    Hello Floyd,

    Thank you for your email regarding the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription.

    You are not required to upgrade to Windows Vista. As long as you keep your Action Pack Subscription current, you may continue to use Windows XP. Please understand that the Action Pack Subscription no longer supports Windows XP. That simply means that we cannot replace any software if it gets lost or damaged.

  9. This new Policy, if it is true, shows no Microsoft knowledge of how Small Business consultants work.

    I need copies of past Microsoft desktop and server products to do business. Here’s some real-world examples of my uses for “old versions” of MS software:

    1) I recently helped a new client perform an emergency recovery of his corporate SQL database. He had a Windows Server 2000 computer. I was able to use my Action Pack Advanced Server 2000 license (installed in Virtual PC) to simulate the recovery method. Without the Action Pack copy of Server 2000, I’d have to somehow find a used copy on Ebay and buy it before I could even start helping my client.

    2) Last year, I had to migrate an office from Server 2000 to SBS 2003. Nearly all of their client PCs had Windows 2000 Professional installed.

    I don’t own any Windows 2000 computers and since I have no Action Pack licenses for it, I don’t have any Virtual PC images, either.

    After the first Windows 2000 client was joined to the Domain, I discovered that Windows 2000 doesn’t migrate profiles properly. I’d LIKE to have an improved migration technique for the next job. But I need to test it. It’s tough to justify paying for a (likely “illegal”) OEM copy of Windows 2000 on eBay. I HATE paying for pirated software.

    3) I’d like to practice some Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 migrations. But I don’t have an Action Pack license for Exchange 5.5, and it’s really tough to justify spending hudnreds of dollars for an obsolete application that will only be used once for training.

    4) ALL of my clients use XP and SBS 2003 or Server 2003. NONE use Vista or SBS 2003 R2 or Server 2003 R2. ALL of my clients use Office 2000, XP, or 2003. NONE use Office 2007.

    I don’t expect to see any SBS R2 or Vista or Office 2007 for another year. I’d appreciate being able to have usable copies of the software that my clients are running so I can support them properly.

    If this new Policy actually happens, it’s going to make the Action Pack pretty worthless to me.