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Why Microsoft killed TechNet

Users may not be happy that TechNet has reached its demise, but it was partially the users' fault.

By now you know Microsoft has decided to shut down its venerable TechNet software subscription service in favor of other means of distribution. Microsoft has been on a consolidation kick lately, getting rid of the redundant where it can, such as ditching Hotmail and Live Mail and creating one new brand, Outlook.com.

This is undoubtedly a part of that trend. But there's a second reason: people abused TechNet. In a statement Microsoft announcing the closure, Microsoft said in part:

"Although the TechNet Subscriptions service has experienced piracy and license misuse in the past, there was no single factor in the decision to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service."

Well, piracy and abuse may not have played the only role in driving it out of existence, but they have to be up there. People abused the system, viewed it as a teat on which they could siphon countless free products. And it just doesn't work that way.

TechNet was a great deal for individuals and small businesses. For an annual subscription fee, subscribers get the right to download virtually any Microsoft desktop and server software and multiple keys for each one. Your subscription fee of a few hundred dollars would pay for itself very, very fast. You want five Windows 7 Home Edition keys? No problem. Need five more? Here, take some Ultimate Edition keys.

The EULA stated that this was for evaluation purposes only, but who reads those things, much less lives by them? You scroll to the end and click Agree. Just admit it.

Most folks were responsible, but there were stories of companies giving out TechNet logins to employees to plunder keys. In some cases, very expensive software was downloaded and used in a production environment, like SQL Server. If users were a little greedy, software pirates made it worse. They sometimes used fake or stolen credit cards to mine the site for keys and then sold them through legitimate or gray market outlets.

Microsoft cracked down, reducing the product keys in 2010 and again in 2012 and changed the terms so rights expired when the subscription did. So you could say Microsoft was a little too permissive and generous with this policy. In the end, I think they had enough and who can blame them?

Microsoft will cease taking new subscriptions for TechNet after August 31, 2013. Existing customers will still enjoy their subscription benefits until their current contract ends. Customers looking for software evaluations can check out the TechNet Evaluation Center and TechNet Virtual Labs, where you get trial periods of 30 to 180 days.

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