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Microsoft explains why it is investigating SMBs

Microsoft's Mohammed Jarrar, who is responsible for relations with the UAE and Oman's small to medium businesses, spoke with <I>Windows User</I> this month.

Microsoft GEM sent out faxes to small to medium businesses throughout the Middle East in an effort to establish some kind of inventory of specific Microsoft software that they are using. Microsoft claims it was an effort to reduce piracy, but a businessman who complained to Windows User Magazine last earlier this month saw the fax he received as "intimidation."

Microsoft's Mohammed Jarrar, the company's small to medium business manager, agreed to participate in an interview with WUM to clarify Microsoft's position on the matter last week, the details of which are as follows:

What was the methodology behind the faxes that you sent out to SMBs? The complainant was concerned that, as this was the first time that he had received any letter from Microsoft, that the tone and wording of the letter implied that he was a user of pirated software.

Jarrar: "This letter was not intended to imply that any business was using illegal software and we regret that it was perceived as such. In order to clarify, let us take you through the method by which information is collected and sorted prior to the dispatch of the letter. The information we have worked with is based on those small and medium businesses that have a documented track record on their use of Microsoft licences as well companies, obtained from authorised third party sources, with no documented track of licenses but have a documented track of PC purchases. Following the data collection process, one method by which we identify companies that may be operating our software illegally, is by comparing customers with registered licences versus those with reported PC purchase but with no corresponding licence registration.
This process is applicable for all companies under the Open Licensing scheme and for those companies that choose to register the licenses they purchase as a Full Packaged Product (FPP) or a bundle with hardware (OEM). This particular fax was sent to the companies that we obtained as a result of the above filtering process; that is businesses that have PCs but no corresponding license registration.
Within the filtering process, the limitation lies in the fact that companies with non-registered FPP and OEM licenses could appear as PC users with unregistered software."

"In addition we communicate with our customers using different means such as:
- Regular Events (Microsoft Business Forum, Microsoft Open Door)
- Direct Mailers (New Licensing Change mailers - Over 13,000 mailers sent to UAE customers)
- Electronic Newsletters & Updates
- Middle East web site"

The business that complained to Windows User Magazine had purchased a PC with OEM installed Microsoft software: you mentioned that such people will not show up on your database. If this is true, and you sent such faxes to companies that weren’t on your database, then surely such people can expect an apology from Microsoft?

Jarrar: "Small and medium businesses ideally would buy a Microsoft Open License, which is issued specifically to the customer and this is the optimum way of licensing for this market segment. Other businesses buying through other means/channels (Full Packaged Product, OEM) will also appear in our database, but only if they choose to register their software with Microsoft as explained in our earlier response. And yes, we apologise for any inconvenience caused to legal users of our software. We would also encourage users to choose to register the software they purchased so we can update them on the latest products and schemes that would be optimal for them as well as to assist them in keeping documented track of their legal licenses. Ultimately, they have the option to choose whether they would like to be registered."

How many of these faxes have been sent?
Jarrar: "One thousand."

How do you react to the claim by META Group analyst Ashim Pal that such faxes are nothing more than a “fishing trip” for Microsoft to see what potential licencees they can target for their new licensing program, and have little to do with piracy?

Jarrar: "As explained, these faxes are intended for companies that have a record of PC purchase but no corresponding record of licenses. It is therefore logical to deduce that a percentage of these companies may be illegal users of our software. These numbers coincide with audited third-party figures on regional software piracy. Piracy is a crime and the protection of intellectual property rights is an initiative that governments across the region have been emphasising. We believe that it is in the interest of the industry as well as the regional economy to adopt measures to support this initiative."

Would you agree that the wording of this fax could be seen as unnecessarily aggressive?
Jarrar: "Many small and medium businesses may not be aware that buying software under the Open Licensing scheme is more optimal for them in many cases. Others may not realise that buying a Full Packaged Product, then copying it on multiple PCs without corresponding licenses, is also illegal and that they would not be protected under UAE laws. The main function of the fax is to educate users of our software of what licensing schemes are available for them to get the best value for their software. We regret that some companies might perceive this as aggressive."

Will Microsoft be continuing with the policy of sending these faxes for much longer?
Jarrar: "Again this fax was sent out to create awareness amongst businesses and help them reduce their legal exposure in terms of software usage. It is our objective at Microsoft to help and educate our customers; at the same time we believe that it is in the interest of the industry as well as the regional economy to adopt measures to support intellectual property rights."

Have you had a positive response from any companies?
Jarrar: "We had positive responses from companies ranging from as small as those with as little as 2 PCs to internationally known large enterprises who requested assistance in the field of stamping out piracy. Respondents varied from companies that were unintentionally using illegal software to businesses that were fully legal. Additionally many businesses requested additional licensing information which would better suit their business."

Are you a consumer or small to medium business owner who is upset with the treatment that you have received from an IT vendor or one of its dealers in the Middle East? Have you had trouble with the standard of service and support after purchasing your IT products? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please contact us on windows@itp.net

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