MSDN Subscriptions: Are You Ready to Be a Team Player?

n Monday, Microsoft announced that it was changing and simplifying its long-standing MSDN subscription model. The new model accommodates Microsoft’s new Team System software and attempts to match developers’ roles more closely. In a press release, the company stated that “Most Visual Studio users receive Visual Studio through an MSDN subscription,” and the new model ties Visual Studio even more closely to MSDN.

Current and New MSDN Subscription Models
Currently, MSDN has five different subscription levels; each includes a specific set of products targeted at different needs. The new subscription model includes only four subscription levels, Premier, Professional, Operating Systems, and Library.

MSDN Premier replaces the Universal and Enterprise subscriptions, and includes access to the Microsoft Operating Systems, the Windows Server System, and Microsoft Office 2003. MDSN Professional includes the Microsoft Operating Systems, SQL Server, and Microsoft Office 2003 (development and test usage rights only). Premier subscribers may also choose to upgrade to the full Team System, which includes all three Visual Studio Team Editions at a reduced price.

Microsoft plans to transition current MSDN Universal subscribers to an MSDN Premier subscription at no cost. In addition, current Universal subscribers may choose between one of the three Visual Studio Team Editions: Architect, Developer, or Tester at no additional cost. New or renewing subscribers can purchase one of the subscriptions as follows:

  • Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition with MSDN Premier subscription: $2,499 (renewal: $1,999)
  • Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition with MSDN Professional subscription: $1,199 (renewal: $799)
  • MSDN Operating Systems subscription: $699 (renewal: $499)
  • MSDN Library subscription: $199 (renewal: $99)

A full-retail new subscription to MSDN Universal from Microsoft costs $2,799 (but you can purchase it elsewhere for less), which as you can see is higher than the announced retail price of the new MSDN Premier subscription. Fortunately, Microsoft also announced special promotional pricing for MSDN Universal in advance of the changeover (although at this time it’s not clear exactly what that promotional pricing is). People without a current subscription or those who want to upgrade can buy a Universal subscription now and take advantage of the transition to the Premier subscription and the no-cost upgrade to one of the Team System Edition products when they’re released. Yesterday’s press release warned that “customers without subscriptions, or customers whose subscriptions have lapsed at the time of product availability, will not receive these special pricing offers.”

Not Just a Name Change
The new subscription model isn’t simply a name change. Universal subscribers formerly enjoyed access to essentially every important Microsoft development tool, operating system, and server product. The Universal subscription model provided that enormous level of access through several years and a huge range of new Microsoft product releases. But the new model places full access to Microsoft Team System out of the reach of many individual developers and small shops.

As long as you’re satisfied with a single Team System Edition product, you’re actually better off under the new pricing and subscription model. But if you need access to more than one Team System Edition product, you’ll have to buy the Team System Suite. Even at special promotional pricing for MSDN subscribers, that’s not going to be cheap?the Team System Suite will cost approximately $10,000 at retail. So if you’re an independent developer who wears several hats, or a self-motivated learner looking to move from development to architectural tasks, or simply a developer who likes to explore all the possibilities, get ready to spend some more money. The price of “universal” access just got higher.

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