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Microsoft talks up Windows 10 for business, but questions mount

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 3, 2015
Redmond dribbles out info on Windows 10's update process for enterprise.

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Microsoft on Friday dribbled out a bit more information about how enterprises will be able to deploy and update Windows 10, answering some questions but leaving analysts asking more.

"I'm still not 100% clear on what the options are for business customers that want to either land on long-term service branches, versus those that want to move behind, but fairly close, to the consumer user base," said Al Gillen of IDC in an email Saturday.

Gillen was talking about the Friday disclosure of the names for the two update tracks that enterprises will be offered for Windows 10. In the Jan. 30 blog post, Jim Alkove, director of program management for Microsoft's enterprise group, tapped the tracks as "Current branch for business" and "Long-term servicing branch."

The names were among the few pieces of news in Alkove's 1,650-word post that either had not been previously discussed by Microsoft or predicted by analysts.

Microsoft's business customers want to know how the Redmond, Wash. company plans to accommodate them with Windows 10, the later-this-year OS that will feature radical changes in updating and upgrading.

Rather than rely on its decades-old practice of rolling out a new operating system every three years, Microsoft will stick with Windows 10 for much, much longer, updating the software on a frequent schedule with not only security fixes -- offered monthly since 2003 -- but also new features, new functionality and UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) changes and improvements.

The revamp, which experts have called Microsoft's biggest-ever change to its update and upgrade process, is integral to the firm's "Windows as a service" strategy.

While most consumers will receive these updates -- which may come as often as monthly -- automatically via Windows Update, the mechanism already used to deliver security patches, businesses will be leery of such a quick cadence. Historically, enterprises have been conservative in how they adopt new OSes for their workers' personal computers, worried about meeting regulatory requirements and new costs to train employees when software morphs. Corporations also usually test updates on a subset of systems before widely deploying those changes to insure that workflow and applications do not break.

A monthly update schedule is simply too rapid for most businesses if they're to continue applying those long-set practices.

Microsoft knows this. It heard as much from commercial customers last year when it originally required that they update from Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Update within 30 days or forego security updates. IT pushed back, and within days Microsoft recanted, extending the deadline for commercial customers to 120 days.

Thus the two tracks aimed at businesses, which Alkove first painted in broad strokes in September 2014.

 

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