Over the past few weeks, we have seen significant resistance and challenges to Microsoft’s position on the inherently anti-DaaS SPLA licensing policy of not allowing service providers to host Windows 7 desktops for rental in a DaaS model without significant restrictions. We’ve seen Gabe Knuth probe into the online gaming provider OnLive’s recent offering of Windows 7 desktops and Microsoft Office applications for free over their proprietary delivery network. Through much dodging and redirection, OnLive never actually disclosed how they’re in compliance with SPLA when many of us have spent hours and hours trying to devise a way to do what they’re doing . Turns out that they’re probably not. A blog post from Microsoft followed immediately indicating that they’re “working with OnLive” to make sure they are compliant with SPLA. Yet the service is still running and available as of today. Brian Madden, a longtime Microsoft advocate and MVP, publicly relinquished his MVP title in protest of the anti-competitive and nontransparent (and possibly favoritism-based) licensing practices around SPLA and Windows 7 desktops. Just the other day, Guise Bule’s tuCloud provider has announced a partnership with Desktone to provide the same service as OnLive, claiming that if OnLive can do it, the rest of us should be able to also. What’s fair is fair, right?
I think this was a long time in coming – Microsoft could not have so publicly maintained such a restrictive licensing model in place without the inevitable questions of anti-competitive practice. The fact that they really said nothing when OnLive brought their service to the market didn’t help them, and only suggested that they showed favoritism for a company that conspiracy theorists have implied may have been an acquisition target for Microsoft to get themselves into the DaaS business and acquire OnLive’s streaming online gaming technologies. It certainly doesn’t help Microsoft’s case that they themselves really have had no substantial desktop virtualization or DaaS capable product offerings and would be entering the market quite late in the game with any such offering with Windows 8/Server 8.
Anyone who’s read my blog here (all three of you) will know that I’m going to be 100% behind this revolution against SPLA and will be following the developments closely. I think these latest developments are simply an indicator that the MSP industry has reached it’s limit of patience with Microsoft’s monopolistic licensing restrictions and alleged possibility of favoritism or back-channel agreements and exceptions and is acting on that frustration. At the very least, if Microsoft chooses to challenge tuCloud, Desktone, OnLive, and anyone else who defiantly dumps their crate of tea into the harbor in protest, they will have to publicly expose and defend their legal position and justification behind the restrictions in SPLA – if they pursue this through litigation. Their other option is to make some sort of modification to SPLA or licensing agreements to allow these providers to continue to operate these services in compliance. Either way, these latest developments will be a catalyst for some sort of response and hopefully a change in the SPLA language. Frankly, I don’t see how Microsoft can continue to blatantly ignore key players in its service provider customer and partner base. If they challenge this and come off as authoritarian and unwilling to respond to the desires of the market, they’re going to continue to see an attrition of valued experts from their MVP program and partner programs, and will only serve to stifle their market share in associated technologies such as application virtualization, server/desktop virtualization, etc. to the benefit of companies like VMWare, Citrix, and other major components of the service provider market.