Microsoft is to try to make its licensing terms easier to understand. The company said that, in July, it is to publish a simplified version of its "Product Use Rights" document.

The current licensing document is more than 100 pages long and full of legal jargon. The new document will be about half as long and in plain language, said Sunny Charlebois, product manager for licensing and pricing at Microsoft. Microsoft is not changing its licensing terms, she added.

The Product Use Rights document is for products bought on so called volume licenses only and details how Microsoft licenses its products. It is meant to help Microsoft customers, partners and others such as industry analysts understand what licences are needed for use of Microsoft software.

As Microsoft added more products to its volume licensing programme, the Product Use Rights document grew and became more complex, according to Charlebois. The document provided information on about 40 products in 2002, and two years later it covered 70 products, she said. "It was very difficult for customers to find the information they needed," Charlebois said.

In the new document, products are grouped into nine categories, a big change from the current 70 individual product listings. "There was a lot of repetition in the document. That was part of what contributed to its length and complexity," Charlebois said.

The categories are: Specialty Servers (Windows Web Server, Virtual Server, for example); Per Proc Servers (SQL Server, Host Integration Server, for example); Management Servers (Systems Management Server, Microsoft Operations Manager); Server/CAL; Server OS (Windows Server, Rights Management Server, for example); Desktop OS; Desktop Apps (Office); Developer Tools (MSDN, Visual Studio, for example); and Online Services (MapPoint, Live Meeting.)

Shortening and simplifying the licensing document is part of a bigger effort by Microsoft to make its licensing policies more transparent. In September, the company launched a product licensing website to publish the current Product Use Rights and make the document searchable. "We're trying to simplify licensing and at the end of the day making it easier for customers to deal with us," Charlebois said.
Microsoft updates its Product Use Rights quarterly.