Microsoft Windows 10 – Will it Be Good News for Enterprises or Add to the Confusion?

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from by Jeff Muscarella, EVP of IT Spend Management Services at NPI, a spend management consultancy, focused on eliminating overspending on IT, telecom and shipping.

Based on the news out of Redmond last week, Microsoft’s Windows 10 isn’t just a new version – it’s an indicator of some very big changes ahead.

New features include the integration of Cortana (Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant), a new web browser to replace Internet Explorer, and a unified Windows experience across all devices. These service-oriented changes will help align the Windows OS with Microsoft’s ambition to transition from a product company to a services provider.

For enterprises, the upgrade path is where things get really interesting. For users already running Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and Windows Phone, Windows 10 will be available for free for the next year. When a Windows device is upgraded to 10, Microsoft will keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device. Much in the way cloud providers deliver new updates, Microsoft will push new Windows features to users as soon as they’re available instead of waiting for the next major release. The company hasn’t confirmed the pricing for users that wait longer than a year to upgrade, but many are predicting it won’t be for free.

These changes bring good news and concern for enterprise users. Microsoft has clearly established a service-oriented direction for its business, and customers who are on board with that trajectory will take part in the vendor’s next phase of innovation. Motivating more users to move more quickly to the new OS version will prompt developers to start writing Windows 10-supported apps that promote a unified Windows experience across phones, tablets and computers.

But, what about those Microsoft customers who are under an enterprise agreement (EA) and have traditionally paid high software assurance (SA) fees to access upgrades? According to Al Gillen of IDC, Microsoft has not said that upgrades from Windows 7 will be free for enterprise users. And, if Microsoft chooses to charge enterprise customers for the upgrade to Windows 10, those enterprises that don’t want to absorb those costs right away may find themselves paying high SA fees while smaller Microsoft customers get a free pass. We’re in “wait and see” mode on this aspect of the transition.

Another enterprise concern is that some customers are hesitant to install major Microsoft updates as soon as they are released. New updates have a tendency to “break” other parts of the IT ecosystem, and many companies have a policy to wait until updates have been tested in the marketplace before installing. Can you imagine a business like Target or Amazon installing a critical IT update weeks before Black Friday? One bug and the results could be disastrous. Fortunately, Microsoft has said they will provide an option for business customers to postpone non-critical updates for 4 months so they can test changes, but hasn’t said whether that option will have a price.

It’s clear that Microsoft is on a mission to simplify the way it delivers, licenses and supports its offerings. Whether or not enterprises will be able to get on board with Microsoft’s new strategy will depend largely on how the vendor smoothes the transition for its biggest and most loyal users.

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