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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

January 30, 2015 at 4:11 PM

Microsoft reassures businesses on Windows 10

After a week in which Microsoft spent most of its time touting the features of Windows 10 for consumers, the company has a reminder for its business-client base: We haven’t forgotten you.

In a lengthy blog post Friday, Jim Alkove, leader of the Windows enterprise program management team, outlined the company’s plans to keep product updates in the hands of companies’ IT departments and outlined exactly who would get Windows free.

Small businesses? Yep. Microsoft’s bread-and-butter major corporate clients? Not so much.

Microsoft announced earlier this month that users of the off-the-shelf consumer version of Windows 7 and Windows 8  are eligible for a free year of upgrades to Windows 10. That offer also extends, Alkove said, to users of the “Pro” versions of those releases, a group that includes small businesses that need souped-up versions of Windows to plug in to company networking.

“Microsoft is basically throwing a carrot out there and saying to business customers that usually take their time upgrading, and saying, ‘If you do it now, you’ll get it for free,’ ” said Al Gillen, an analyst with researcher IDC. “This is a big deal.”

But businesses large enough that they fall under Microsoft’s “enterprise” category will still have to pay for upgrades (unless they’re already paying for Microsoft’s Software Assurance package, which includes free upgrades to the latest version of Windows).

Alkove did have some good news for Microsoft’s biggest customers: With Windows 10, you’ll have control over how upgrades are distributed. Update protocol, geeky backroom IT issue that it is, is nevertheless one that keeps chief information officers up at night.

Microsoft, like many software providers in the Internet age, has been shifting toward more frequent, automatic updates delivered through the Web. Think of the seemingly endless series of updates to apps on your smartphone as developers fix bugs or add features on the fly.

For corporate IT leaders, that’s a problem. They prefer to have control of the upgrades distributed on the computers they manage, both to avoid the embarrassing scenario of teaching their workforce how to use new features installed without their knowledge, and to make sure the occasional, not-quite-ready upgrade doesn’t lead to a security risk or crash the system.

“Consumers are going to get [Windows 10] as a service, they’ll get it constantly upgraded for the life of their device,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. “But when we look at the business class of experience, organizations want to have some level of control.”

Microsoft thinks it has a solution for these folks.

First, Microsoft is rolling out a “Long Term Servicing” branch of service tailored for systems that do things more sensitive than garden variety PC multitasking, including air-traffic control, financial trading systems, and factory machinery. Devices on these plans will receive only critical security and system updates. Customers can to determine whether these updates are delivered automatically, or deployed by IT staff.

The second option, the “Current Branch for Business,” will offer the wider range of updates and feature tweaks, but only after they’ve been proved stable by Microsoft’s legions of individual users. Like the long-term plan, these updates can also be delivered either automatically or in the hands of an IT department.

In discussions with Miller’s business clients, he said. “there was a common theme of ‘I like what’s being promised with Windows 10, but I’m scared because of the quality issues.’ The long-term servicing branches could give businesses a more comfortable place.”

 

Comments | More in Windows | Topics: microsoft, windows 10

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