Locked in for the future
August 2, 2005
HP's made a minor business out of its license transfers for HP 3000s, and its $400 fee to shift MPE/iX and HP database software to a new server looks like it will outlast HP's support business for the server. Last week on the 3000-L newsgroup a customer who'd just bought an A-Class server (maybe not brand new, but new to him) wanted to know how long HP would be collecting transfer fees and software tier upgrade fees on HP's compilers and the like.
Matthew Perdue, one of the new members of the OpenMPE board — and a fellow who's been in on the weekly conference calls with HP over post-2006 operations — said the transfer fees and HP's right to collect software license fees would be with us a long time:
[These] tools are not “unlocked.” You can reinstall them on an additional box, but you will not be in compliance with HP’s license agreement. You’ll need to get a license transfer agreement from HP, and there may be fees associated with the transfer. The unlimited License to Use [the user] writes of is the user limit on the machine, not additional licensed HP software or third-party software.
This collection of fees for a system HP no longer sells does not indicate HP's desire to stay in the 3000 market. It's more about the vendor staying out of trouble. HP worries about its liability for systems which it sold and will continue to work in companies for years to come. Its licensing fees and the like let HP exert a modicum of control over a market it is leaving, to paint a picture of stewardship which can be viewed as dilligence.
Not all of HP's 3000 software is tied to transfer fees, though.
John Lee of 3000 reseller Vaske Computer Solutions said:
Most of that software is transferable for no charge, although the unlimited user license may result in an upcharge on some. About the only HP software that they didn’t used to let transfer at all was the MPE operating system (called FOS) and IMAGE and Allbase.
Meanwhile Perdue, one of the parties to HP's current thinking about post-2006, offered this long-term forecast about HP's future license term for MPE/iX:
To make a short story of it, up to 50 years. That’s the limit on copyright ownership under a treaty approved by the Senate a few years ago that sets the international copyright ownership period at 50 years. The legal types will get specific as to ownership by corporations or individuals and when the clock starts for each type.
Bartlesby.com was shaping up as an excellent Internet library of works that had past the previous copyright period but it looks like it has gone the way of Interex — when the copyright period changed to 50 years the site had to pull almost 60% of the content.