Windows 10 was released to the public on Wednesday, and Microsoft is already encouraging enterprises to begin considering an update.
Jim Alkove, corporate vice president for enterprise and security in Microsoft's Windows and Devices group, said the release provides a number of important new features for enterprise IT departments. In particular, Windows 10 includes management tools that can automatically configure new devices, along with important security improvements that will help protect businesses from attack.
"We've really taken the cyberattack landscape and broken it down component by component," Alkove said.
Windows 10's protections include features like Device Guard, which lets businesses lock devices down to only run applications from trusted developers they choose. The operating system also includes Windows Hello, which lets people log in with biometric information like their fingerprint or face.
The company worked to make the transition to Windows 10 easy for businesses. To start with, Microsoft began meeting with its business customers under the cover of non-disclosure agreements in January 2014, which helped shape Windows 10's eventual release roughly a year and a half later. The transition process should be easier than migrating computers from Windows XP to Windows 7, in part because of lessons Microsoft learned from that transition, Alkove said.
One of the key components of a business's transition to a new operating system is ensuring compatibility with critical applications, some of which are developed in-house. Windows 10 has been built with compatibility in mind and works with a wide variety of programs. Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans said in a report that barring errors with security tools, "most organizations will find compatibility issues will be minimal and some may see no substantial compatibility issues."
Selling products to enterprise customers is big business for Microsoft -- commercial licensing (including Windows, Windows Server, Office and other products) brought in more than US$41 billion during the company's just-completed fiscal year, which is almost 44 percent of its total sales.
While Microsoft is encouraging enterprises to get a move on when it comes to evaluating the new operating system, analysts think it will take time for businesses to migrate their systems to the new operating system. Kleynhans said in an email that there are a lot of companies that plan to upgrade to Windows 10 within the next 12-18 months. IDC analyst Al Gillen said he expects many small businesses to upgrade within the first year to take advantage of Microsoft's free upgrade offer for Windows 10 Pro, while large organizations will probably wait a year or more to roll out the operating system.
Bloomberg analyst Anurag Rana agreed with Kleynhans's time scale, saying enterprises probably won't upgrade right away in part because a lot of them just finished moving away from Windows XP last year.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.