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What does software 'maintenance' inlcude?

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I am involved in a bit of a debate and in need of some advice regarding the purchase of 'maintenance' for a software product.  Specifically,

- Is this a common term in the software industry?
- What is normally covered by 'maintenance' fees?
- Would someone paying maintenance expect to receive all upgrades whether or not it was specifically stated that new versions would be included?
- Are there any (I hate to ask) legal references that I can refer to that might have a definition of the term 'maintenance'?


In my experience:

1. It's a pretty common term.
2. The maintenance contracts I've purchased (Acronis, Diskeeper, Raxco) have included premium level support and free updates/upgrades during the term of the agreement. They've also been significantly cheaper than the cost of a single upgrade - less than 50% - so even if no upgrades come out in a given year I'm still saving money if I pay for two years of coverage and only get one upgrade. I realise that this is not what you're concerned about, but wanted to provide an end-user's experience/perception.
3. Speaking as an end-user I would expect that during the period covered by the agreement, all updates and upgrades would be provided free (unless very prominently and clearly stated otherwsie)
4.  Can't help you with the legal references. Sorry.

Again as a user, and when I used to be involved in the development of packages, maintenance was always in the contract, but usually covered making sure that the package performed as the specifications said it would, changes that occurred later through a change request process were separately covered by a new agreement or on a fee for service basis.  So I've seen the ones thst Darwin mentions above as well as the larger versions where development cost was in the 100s of millions.  So its a slippery term that needs defining by you as the developer, if its shareware type app or with your individual customer if you have customized software built just for them.

It is an industry standard term in the software business. And that standard varies.  ;) Since I do not know the context upon which your case arises, I will comment on what it generally means with you purchase "shrinkwrapped" or "retail" software. In these cases it means technical support at no additional charge, all patches, upgrades, updates, new versions, at no additional cost, and in some cases, priority support to find workarounds or one-off patches when a legitimate bug in the software is causing your business undue financial burden. Though, the latter is usually only found on software with >$1,000 USD per seat price tags.

Just for clarification, is there a consensus that upgrades to newer versions would not be covered by maintenance fees unless it was explicitly stated as such in the terms of the software agreement.


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