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The online Technet blogs and customer support forums will live on, but Microsoft announced today in a letter to subscribers that it plans to retire its venerable TechNet subscriptions service. New subscriptions will no longer be available after August 31, 2013, and the subscription service will shut down as current subscribers’ contracts end.
Microsoft has offered TechNet subscriptions for most of the modern Windows era, debuting in 1998 as a massive packet of CDs, and evolving into a download option as broadband connections became common.
The services have historically been one of the best deals around for frugal IT professionals and PC enthusiasts. For an annual subscription fee of a few hundred dollars, subscribers get the right to download virtually all of the desktop and server software Microsoft sells, with multiple product keys. The software is licensed for evaluation purposes only, but that restriction is part of the license agreement and not enforced in the software itself.
As a result, a lot of enthusiasts used TechNet as a way to get cut-rate Windows client and server upgrades and licenses. Those product keys would up activating Windows on PCs deployed for everyday use instead of hewing to the “evaluation only” restriction.
To make matters worse, that smoking deal was also a boon for software pirates, who figured out long ago that they could subscribe to TechNet and sell the keys (sometimes along with counterfeit media) via the web, at prices that were too good to be true.
Over the years, Microsoft has tried to clamp down on piracy, cutting the number of product keys available to TechNet subscribers in 2010 and again a year ago, in 2012. It also changed the terms so that usage rights expired when the subscription did (although product keys continued to work).
Given its history, today’s announcement shouldn’t be a surprise. Here are the details:
In practice, that means TechNet downloads will continue until sometime near the end of 2013, as those one-time renewals expire.
Microsoft did not announce any changes in its Action Pack program, which offers discounted software to registered partners.
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Source: Associated Press