Anytime a company uses the word “free” when announcing a new product, you can expect an enthusiastic response. So when Microsoft said that users would be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free for the first year, the announcement generated plenty of buzz.
But not so fast, IT pros. While the deal is a steal, it applies largely to consumers. Enterprise users will have a different path to upgrade. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet’s All About Microsoft blog (one of a BizTech’s 50 Must-Read IT Blogs for 2014) offered more specifics in a recent article.
Microsoft officials reiterated in yesterday's blog post that Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows 8.1 Enterprise won't be covered by the free first-year upgrade promotion for Windows 10. As Microsoft execs said last week, business users with paid Software Assurance volume-licensing contracts will, as usual, be able to upgrade to the latest versions of Windows as part of their contract terms.
Microsoft still hasn't released details about how much Windows 10 will cost or which editions it will make available when the product will be released.
There’s a reason for the difference in pricing of the enterprise and consumer upgrade paths. IT administrators can anticipate additional functionality that will make managing and administering Windows 10 deployments more straightforward. In-house app developers, meanwhile, will benefit from a more efficient and streamlined platform and process.
“Windows 10 will also bring additional management functionality that is native in the OS. Businesses will be able to manage all their devices the same from a single user interface and tool, further reducing their support and maintenance costs,” Drew Shanahan, a practice architect with the Endpoint Optimization & Mobility Team at CDW, tells BizTech.
“For developers,” Shanahan says, “they will be able to write an application once and have it available to Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile (phone) and even Xbox users.”
Microsoft is consolidating its application stores, he says, which will simplify both app development and deployment.
One of Windows 8’s most touted features was its ability to simultaneously support desktop and mobile user interfaces. However, Windows 8 prioritized the mobile UI, making many enterprise users cautious about making the switch. Windows 10 boasts the same cross-device flexibility, but it puts the user in control of which interface is used.
“Windows 7 was made to accommodate the majority of laptops and desktops that businesses use. They typically use a keyboard and a mouse to get around and be productive,” says Shanahan. “Windows 8 was a major departure from the Windows 7 user experience, a fully immersive touch interface intended primarily for tablets. Windows 10 aims to combine the best of both, by combining the different user experiences into a dynamic and flexible operating system that can adapt to different devices and work styles.”
This flexibility is important because it offers users not only the choice to compute on their preferred device, but it also offers a cost savings opportunity.
“Businesses will like [this duality] since it will require them to support only one operating system, which reduces maintenance and support costs,” adds Shanahan.
How about this for Windows 7 users who need one last selling point to reassure them about making the switch to Windows 10: The Start button is back.
The Start Menu was axed from the initial release of Windows 8 and added back in a later update, but Windows 10 has included it since inception.
“The lack of the Start Menu in Windows 8 was a big blocker for businesses to deploy. The user experience in Windows 8 was such a drastic shift, that the amount of training needed was preventing organizations from upgrading,” Shanahan says. “The Start Menu and other user interface improvements make it easy for a Windows 7 user to start using Windows 10.”