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Dear Microsoft: "We're not your slaves"

Microsoft proves, yet again, that its model is inimical to caring about customers...and partners.

I've written before about how proprietary software pits vendors against customers, making enemies of two groups that should be fast friends. But what I've failed to cover is how proprietary software pits vendors against their partners, and equally unnecessarily.

This is particularly true in Microsoft's case, where Microsoft is reportedly using its partners to police license infractions, infractions which are increasingly difficult to avoid, even for those who want to, as CRN reports:

Microsoft partners think it's great that the vendor has been aggressively battling software piracy. But some partners say the task of ensuring that their clients are in compliance with Microsoft's Byzantine software licensing structure is steadily growing more difficult.

Making matters worse, several sources told CMP Channel that Microsoft sometimes expects partners to act as foot soldiers in its ongoing campaign against so-called 'unintentional' software piracy by reporting organizations that aren't in compliance, which is threatening their role as trusted advisors to their clients.

Microsoft licensing has numerous wrinkles and is notoriously complex, which means it's easy for users to violate the terms, says Scott Braden, senior Microsoft analyst at Miro Consulting, Fords, N.J. "Microsoft's reps usually only have to ask a few questions about how you're doing things in order to tell you that you're doing something illegal," said Braden.

There is a better way. It's called giving the software away. Open source. Suddenly, you don't have to worry about piracy, because if you're selling service around the software, there's no way to pirate that service. Sure, I could dress up in a Microsoft uniform, put a Zune on my belt, and gloat about how great the rain is in Redmond, but I'd fail miserably.

Proprietary software makes enemies of vendors and customers, causing vendors to mistrust and misuse their customers. Open source aligns interests through a subscription model that also makes, if the customers choose, customers co-developers with their vendors. It's an equal, productive, healthy relationship.

I'm betting Microsoft's partners would like it, as would its customers. Microsoft, however, does not like it. At some point, however, it will need to capitulate. Let's hope that happens sooner rather than later.

Via the sidebar at Groklaw.