Over the past year, there has been an increasing buzz around User Centric Computing, especially in the enterprise IT context. Very little has been written about what this trend implies for software publishers. This article will demystify User Centric Computing as it relates to its impact on software licensing from the perspective of software publishers.
What is User Centric Computing? Unlike IT's traditional "device-centric" approach, user-centric computing is all about providing business users with a seamless and personalized experience of all their applications regardless of their device, location, operating system and network connectivity. Enterprise IT benefits by being able to secure and manage users and their environments centrally. As pointed out in another blog "Getting Started with User Centric Computing" -- user-centric computing gives users control of their computing experience, providing them with access to any combination of computing environments, applications, settings, and data from any location or device.
The ingredients of a User Centric Computing solution include:
- An approach to managing user preferences, data and user-specific applications. User Experience Management Solutions such as AppSense meet this requirement.
- An approach to delivering applications provisioned by users' IT departments. Application Virtualization (e.g. Microsoft App-V), Remote Desktop Services (e.g. Citrix XenApp) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (e.g. Citrix XenDesktop) are broad categories of solutions targeting this requirement.
- An approach to managing the end user's computing environment, when applicable. Note that with enterprises allowing users to "Bring Your Own Device", corporate IT may not actually be responsible for managing the end user's computing environment. This requirement is met using the management framework of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solution.
From a deployment perspective, User Centric Computing involves the creation of a bundle of applications on a central server and delivering them to users using an application delivery approach listed above.
Implications for Software Licensing – If you are a software publisher, User Centric Computing will require you to:
Evolve your licensing approach: If your current software licensing approach is tied to a device, it has to change, by definition, since user-centric computing un-tethers users from their devices. If you use some form of concurrent licensing, that too needs to evolve to account for off-network use of applications as well as situations where the same user consumes your application from multiple devices. In either case, licensing metrics and approaches should align with users (e.g. licensing based on named users) of the application rather than devices or instances of your application.
Consider usage-based monetization (versus license enforcement): As enterprises expect a seamless application experience for users across diverse environments, they will not want license provisioning to get in their way. At least some enterprises will push publishers for usage-based licensing approaches (versus license enforcement). Besides, license enforcement based on device attributes will just not work in solutions such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructures as machine virtualization is at its core.
Provide centralized administration for entitlements and licenses: Centralized administration of users and their computing environment is a key aspect of User Centric Computing. Needless to add, we will see enterprises pushing their software publishers to provide tools that help them administer entitlements and licenses in a consolidated fashion across all their products and eventually, across multiple publishers.
 Source: "User Environment Management: Smackdown", PQR, http://www.virtuall.nl/download-document/user-environment-management-uem-smackdown