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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.

Stay current, but go slow(er)
The Current branch for business (CBB) is meant to give enterprises time -- although Microsoft has yet to say how much time -- to test and deploy Windows 10 updates. But CBB will clearly be a slower update cadence than that offered to consumers.

"[CBB] gives IT departments time to start validating updates in their environments the day changes are shipped broadly to consumers," said Alkove, who implied that Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Microsoft's business-grade update service, would be required to implement CBB.

Michael Silver of Gartner was confident that the interval between CBBs would be 120 days, a span he's stuck to since last fall. Every four months, Microsoft will issue a new CBB that will have rolled up all the non-security changes shipped to consumers during that period.

"A CBB release will include updates from the last 120 days or so," Silver said in an email reply to questions. "Will that need to be deployed within 30 days of its release to get the next month's security fixes? Perhaps that's the catch, or one of them."

Another possibility is that once a CBB has been released -- a "stake in the ground," so to speak -- business customers will have until the next CBB to deploy the first, giving them four months of grace. That would mimic how Microsoft ended up treating Windows 8.1 Update.

Silver wasn't sure Microsoft would want to deal with the additional cost and complexity of monitoring not one, but two successive CBBs, and so he leaned toward the 30-day patch-or-perish window. "I think the idea is that organizations will have had four months to test the updates, so once a CBB is released, organizations will probably need to be ready to deploy it before the next month's security fixes are released in order to stay secure," he said.

Nor has Microsoft revealed the cost, if any, of CBB -- one of the biggest questions Silver had. On one hand, Microsoft may levy a fee or require Software Assurance (SA), the annuity-like contracts that until now have been pitched as a way for businesses to upgrade to newer editions of Windows, to implement CBB. Or it may choose not to.

What's the SKU strategy?
Part of the confusion over whether CBB will come with a price tag is due to which versions of Windows Microsoft will allow to use that branch. It has yet to define the SKUs (stock-keeping units) for Windows 10, not unusual since it typically does that much closer to the final ship date, say, this summer for a fall debut.

Windows 8.1 has three SKUs: Windows 8.1 for consumers, Windows 8.1 Pro for both businesses and advanced consumers, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise, aimed at large companies and until recently available only via volume licensing and limited to customers with SA.


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