Dan Holme recently had an interesting piece of commentary in the SharePoint Pro magazine titled It’s Time to Break Up the SharePoint Brand in which he advocated breaking the product into purpose based bundles instead of the behemoth platform it is now. I agree with much of what Dan wrote, including his two main points that it is not a single purpose platform and operates more like a modern OS.
As I consider the points though, and my own experience evangelizing the platform with customers large and small, I would say that there is already serious confusion about the licensing. As Microsoft attempts to transform itself to a services based company, I would actually recommend a different sort of licensing move that is even more radical. When buying server based applications like SharePoint, there should be no need to also individually license the pre-requisite dependency technologies; specifically Windows Server and SQL Server. These are needed to run the system, so if a customer has a six server farm and busy six licenses of SharePoint Server, then they also require six licenses for Windows Server as well as at least one SQL Server license. As the number of SharePoint licenses increase, so would the associated Windows and SQL licenses.
While I think this move makes great sense for customers I am not holding my breadth that Microsoft will make this move any time soon. I think the biggest reason is the confusion of how to then map revenue back to the other divisions such as the core server OS group, and the database group, but really there should be a set percentage that they can agree on. I believe that this service or purpose based approach would simplify things quite a bit and should also apply to the other server applications like Exchange, Systems Center, etc. Of course there will still be a need for stand alone Windows Servers for traditional server things like AD, DNS, Web Sites.
As the move to the cloud continues to evolve this may become more of a moot point for many, but it is unlikely that even half of customers will be running all of their applications primarily in the cloud in the next five years.