Microsoft has given small and mid-sized business customers in the United States more ways to earn cash to buy its software through partners by adding new products and product groups to its Big Easy programme.
This week, Microsoft unveiled Big Easy 2.0, an update to a programme originally launched in February. Through the programme, small businesses purchasing certain products through authorised specialist partners get between 10 percent to 22 percent of money back that they can use to buy other services from those partners. Microsoft to date has invested about US$13 million in the programme.
In Big Easy 2.0, small-business customers now can purchase licences for Microsoft's SQL Server database without having to also buy the company's Enterprise Assurance (EA) maintenance program that includes free updates to software. Customers have complained about EA in the past because if there are not significant updates to products they use over the three-year time period of the contract, they don't feel EA is worth the investment.
Microsoft also has broken out its Forefront security products into their own group in the programme update. Customers receive more subsidies if they buy products from more groups through the program's four-level tiering system, said Michael Moore, a senior channel marketing manager at Microsoft. By breaking out the Forefront products instead of including it under the Exchange product group -- as it was in Big Easy 1.0 -- it gives customers the opportunity to get more money back from Microsoft, he said.
On the other hand, Microsoft merged what previously were two product groups -- Windows System Center Essentials and System Center Configuration Manager -- in Big Easy 2.0, he said. However, this was at the request of partners who wanted more clarity about Microsoft's systems-management offerings, Moore said.
Microsoft also has added products to the list of those for which subsidies are available. In addition to the current list, Windows Essential Business Server and Windows Server Data Center Edition are now covered under the program. However, Essential Business Server won't be available until November, Moore said.
A comprehensive list of products covered in the program and a calculator to estimate the amount of subsidies a small business can receive is available on Microsoft's Big Easy Web site.
The calculator is particularly helpful because while Microsoft tried to keep the program simple, Microsoft's volume-licensing -- on which the program is based -- is complicated and therefore subsidies can be difficult to calculate, Moore acknowledged.