Many IT Pros, including me, subscribe to Microsoft TechNet. For just under £100 per year you get access to licenses that permit downloading virtually any mainstream Microsoft product and installing it for test and evaluation purposes. Many IT Pros have a small server at home and have replicated a Active Directory business environment for serious testing of the latest software
. Most enterprises are very cautious of implementing new material but TechNet Subs were a great legal tool for IT Pros to understand the new stuff.
The reason why it was good was because it was affordable. You could set-up a little lab on virtual machines and learn at home on your own time. Enterprises do pay for training but frequently it is only when they are getting ready to roll out new systems not when they are first released. IT Pros, armed with this knowledge, would be able to confidently advocate using new Microsoft technologies. It was like creating a supporters club for Microsoft in thousands of enterprises.
However this is no more. Microsoft say that all their software is available for 30 day evaluations for free so TechNet Subscriptions are not needed. Some journalists have suggested the real reason is that the software was widely pirated. Free is cheaper so that's alright then. Unfortunately most IT Pros have built test environments that often take hours of configuring and they use them on an ongoing basis. The big cost for them is the time it takes to set these things up. So a 30 day rotation of destroying your test environment is certainly going to be a painful process. This is why they paid the extra cost of the subscription.
The bottom line wont be hurt by this. Microsoft is a multi-billion dollar business. However over the years not having IT Pros educating themselves in the products that Microsoft is selling is going to remove Microsoft advocates from the workplace. This may cost MS more in the long run than offering IT Pros a hand with cheap software.
Microsoft have made a few promotional mis-steps in the last 12 months. This may be another one. I am sad at the policy rather than angry. It's the end of an era.