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Why agree to upgrade charges as part of a software license agreement?

Why would anyone sign a software license agreement that included charges for upgrades?

To answer your question, I would like you to play along with me for a moment. Think back to the last time you purchased...

a computer for your own personal use. Do you remember your excitement when you brought it home?

I am guessing that you set the big box down near your workspace, cut through the packing tape and quickly pulled open the box flaps. You grabbed the paperwork and cables near the top and tossed them aside. Removing the styrofoam packing, you reached into the box, grabbed the computer, and pulled it out. A few minutes later, after the cables were all plugged in, you pressed the power button. The machine led you through a few minutes of setup questions and then you were off and running.

So tell me, when did you read the license and/or maintenance agreement (if any) that came with the computer? Did you even notice the ADDITIONAL license that both Microsoft and Apple presents on the screen during the intial setup and you clicked "yes" to accept the terms of?

My guess is that you did not notice it at all. Why? Probably because you were concerned about the computer and did not really let the fact that there was a license affect your behavior.

The same is true for corporate procurement. The people who buy the technology these days are less likely to have been the people responsible for the terms and conditions of the agreement. They are, however, the people who love technology. They want to see the product in operation, not in the box, and are primarily concerned with solving the business problems necessitating the technology.

So what happens in most of the cases is that there is a disconnect between "good" technology procurement practices and actual procurement. But that does not account for all of those licenses and the answer to your question usually boils down to three things: "Didn't read it, didn't care what it said, and didn't feel like I had a choice."

There is also a very large segment of the population that NEVER READS their license! They THINK, HOPE or BELIEVE that the salespeople were being forthright and telling them about all of the charges associated with their purchase. And that thinking, hoping and believing, but not KNOWING, is what causes the trouble. The moral of the story is: READ YOUR LICENSE and get professional assistance if the words do not make sense. In the same way that there are tech support companies, there are now contract negotiation companies. Use a professional! But even if you read the license AND it makes sense, there is another group of people who are "ok" with the concept of upgrade charges because they do not think that they will ever need the upgrade. This group convinces themselves that the product as it exists today is all they will ever need or want. Lastly however, and most often, the vendor is simply better at forcing the customer to take their standard terms and conditions (to be fair, the tables have been recently turning and customers are getting better deals these days). Even if you had a problem with the license from my example above, what could you have done? In the retail situation, the answer is simple: return the product. In the corporate situation, the answer jumps back to using a professional!

This was last published in April 2005

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