For years technology consultants, researchers, and journalists have relied on Microsoft’s inexpensive TechNet subscription service to test and evaluate the company’s offerings.
Last week, Microsoft announced it would end TechNet subscriptions, effective Aug. 31. Here’s why that decision is — to put it kindly — lamentable.
I wrote about TechNet subscriptions in my July 1, 2010, Woody’s Windows column, “The ultimate software deal has strings attached” (paid content). Microsoft had just lowered the price for the TechNet Standard package — from U.S. $349 to $199 for the first year ($149 for subsequent years), making the service even more affordable for the legions of technologists with small budgets. (Medium-to-large businesses pay heavily for Microsoft Developer Network [MSDN] subscriptions. MSDN starts at $699 for the first year; add Office and Visual Studio, and it jumps to $6,119. That’s a nosebleed jump from TechNet’s $199.)
Those who qualify for TechNet (more on that below) get access to nearly all of Microsoft’s software (Office for the Mac being a notable exception), with a limited number of license keys for each application.
Microsoft’s recent announcement stated that TechNet users could buy or renew a one-year subscription through Aug. 31. Not surprisingly, the announcement was immediately condemned by TechNet users, and it raised numerous unanswered questions — such as what happens to the license keys currently in use.
A system that might actually encourage piracy
Microsoft hasn’t specifically stated that software piracy is the root cause of TechNet’s demise. But there’s no doubt that a significant number of TechNet subscribers have abused the service. In truth, the program has been rife with petty-level pirating for all of its nearly 20 years.
Back in the early days, packs of TechNet CDs arrived in the mail. It was like manna from the mother ship. And those CDs got passed around.