Tough times could be driving increased competition in enterprise software with the news that BigFix is to undercut its rivals' patch management renewal licensing by up to 50 percent.

The deal appears to be catch-free beyond the need for customers to license BigFix's Patch Management software for a three-year period, and to use it to replace only those seats actually included in any current agreement. What this probably means is that rivals will privately have to match or better the cut when renewal time comes around, leading to further falls in per-seat overheads.

BigFix's rivals include Microsoft - which can probably cope with such competition without losing too much sleep - and its probable targets Lumension Security (formerly PatchLink) and Shavlik Technologies, companies of approximately its size.

"It's time for a Software New Deal. Too many software companies charge premium prices for commodity products that just don't work as advertised" said BigFix CEO Dave Robbins. "This is simply unacceptable given today's economic environment."

How can BigFix afford to cut prices? According to CTO Amrit Williams, the company hopes to use patch management, which now constitutes only a minority of its sales, as a tool to cross-sell other products in its stable, such as systems lifecycle management, security management, and endpoint protection.

"The competition will come back and lower their prices," he admitted. Equally, such pressure would be on the bottom line of companies that had not had to face aggressive price competition before.

He denied the cuts were down to poor sales. It was more a case of customers being receptive to price cuts than they might have been in the past, particularly when renewal time comes around.

Rivals Lumension and Shavlik had yet to comment on the announcement at the time of going to press.

BigFix's patch management promotion runs until 30 June this year, and is open to all North American and EU customers using a rival product.