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questions and please don't post ads.
I used to have a company-sponsored MSDN subscription which cost me something like £800 as a salary sacrifice and the company picked up the rest of the cost which at the time was something like £6000 here in the UK. It gave me 10 licence codes for each of just about all MS' products and they were perpetual licence codes which have served me well the last four years and still do. I also had 24hr support which was really worth having; it was nice to fire a vexing problem at MS and let them sit with it on a four hour response time. On one support call to do with a printer device driver we were developing they sent one of the R&D team from their UK head office to our office to see at first hand what we were trying to do. They punted it States-side and two days later we got a very detailed answer of the best way to solve the problem and they gave a sample project to prove the concept worked.
It cost a lot of money initially but I got to keep the licence codes when I left the company and we got complete satisfaction from MS. To some folks in the lounge that would seem at odds with how MS do things. For me, it was really good value for money, still is, and for once, I got more bang for my buck from MS than I dared to expect.
Nothing I write though is in opposition to Bill Woodruff's comments.
If there is one thing more dangerous than getting between a bear and her cubs it's getting between my wife and her chocolate.
Have the customers provide the licenses for the particular versions they want.
You need this on Excel 97?
You have to provide me a license/copy of Excel 97.
The following will not work if you have to integrate with a live, running instance of Excel.
If you just need to generate files, they will work fine for batch or service based processing.
Consider using old, but stable formats that have been supported on all Excel versions. SYLK, DIF, CSV, etc. Many of these formats would work with the Win 2.1 versions of Excel all of the way to the most current.
OpenOffice + Java API will produce compatible documents and save you $5000. I doubt this would support back to 97, though.
While I agree that MS has lost touch with its developers and has for quite some time IMO. I will say that they have made it pretty easy to get their products for free as a partner or ISV. So yes MS has alienated their developer base, I am working hard to get away from the MS stack, and yes the pricing is crazy but they have tried to create incentives like BizSpark.
It boils down to business philosophy.
Your point about the company depending on developers providing lots of apps is valid. Traditionally MS has been eager to encourage developers.
Recent management has been more interested in bottom line and paying out dividends.
When short term goals like revenue become more important than long term growth, this is what you get.
From a pure revenue perspective, there is a 'sweet spot' in the demand/price curve. Everyone knows that when price is low, sales go up. High prices yield fewer sales. Revenue is the product of sales and revenue; there is an ideal price at which the sales * price product is maximized. This price change may be an attempt to find that sweet spot.
Failing that, if you're giving them money, I'd say do it the old fashioned way and pick up the phone and call them. If you represent any value to them, I'm sure something will be done...time you spend on the phone with their sales reps to complain is time they don't get to spend with other customers.
I use them for domain registration -- I have about 23 -- but it does not host any of the websites. I get one email from them, maybe, ever week. I have them automatically sent to my "probably spam" folder, as the only meaningful communication I ever get from them is "your registration will expire in six months: RENEW NOW FOR 100 YEARS BEFORE YOU LOSE IT!!1!"
If that link to remove yourself from the commercial/sales list is not functional (that would not be the first time to happen) you could add a new rule in your e-mail client, in those cases I end up marking the e-mails as read, and sending them automatically to the trash folder, then before removing everything I check the subject lines and if they are spam I flush the trash folder.