Microsoft is to open up its school-licensing programme, following pressure from education trade body BECTA.
The new Subscription Enrolment Schools Pilot (SESP) builds on the vendor's existing school agreement and loosens some of the restrictions placed on educational institutions.
The biggest change to the schools agreement will see schools no longer having to licence Microsoft software for all of their computers, regardless of whether it was compatible or not.
Previously, educational institutions were forced to purchase licenses for computers running Mac OSX, Linux and other open source based-systems: a practice Becta had been particularly vocal against.
"We welcome the launch of the licensing pilot," commented Becta chief executive, Stephen Crowne. "The new flexibility will facilitate greater competition and choice in the marketplace and provides schools who wish to use Microsoft software with improved opportunities to achieve greater value for money.
"It will also make it easier for such schools to use a mix of proprietary and open source products as they see fit. It will be important that schools and local authorities who wish to use Microsoft software now review their perpetual or subscription licensing options in the light of this new flexibility."
Microsoft said the new agreement is the culmination of a year worth of negotiations. "We have been able to work with Becta over the last 12 months to develop a pilot of new licensing options for UK schools," said senior director for UK Public Sector at Microsoft, Dr Nicola Hodson.
"The pilot provides expanded choices of subscription licences, which may benefit schools whether they currently buy Microsoft subscription or perpetual licences. UK schools are world leaders in harnessing technology for teaching and learning; this pilot will enable schools to customise their licensing to match the individual needs of their school."