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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.

"There are two issues at hand, upgrade cadence and SKU strategy, and so far, Microsoft is keeping those separate," said Silver. "It sounds like there will be an Enterprise-like SKU that will allow the LTS (long-term servicing branch), CBB, or the consumer update cadence. They didn't say what a Professional-like SKU will have. I doubt devices running Pro will get LTS. Organizations running Pro at least need to be able to run CBB, but Microsoft hasn't made it clear if the right to run CBB will be included."

Gillen of IDC also was puzzled. "Microsoft has not used the term 'Windows 10 Professional' around me, so I am not certain what becomes of the Pro SKU," Gillen said. "Remember that historically you needed 'Windows Professional' if you wanted to join a domain. So I have to assume there will still be some sort of a professional-grade product that lives between Windows 10 for consumers and Windows 10 Enterprise."

That's likely, added Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "Pro users are always a mix of business and higher-end [consumer] needs," said Miller in an interview, implying that Microsoft will continue to offer such a SKU.

Long-term service
The other track Alkove outlined -- Long-term servicing branch, or LTS -- was also named Friday.

"On [LTS], customer devices will receive the level of enterprise support expected for the mission-critical systems, keeping systems more secure with the latest security and critical updates, while minimizing change by not delivering new features for the duration of mainstream (five years) and extended support (five years)," Alkove wrote.

LTS will resemble the traditional way that Microsoft has dealt with OSes, releasing a new version then supporting it for a decade with security updates and bug fixes, but rarely changing the operating system's look, operation or feature set.

Enterprises will be able to assign LTS to specific systems -- those that are most important to its business in many cases -- and essentially "lock" them in place. Only security updates and critical bug fixes would reach them.

But business at Microsoft, and Windows for businesses, won't be what they once were: LTS reflects that. Microsoft will support Windows 10 in the LTS branch -- the first will launch alongside the new OS this fall -- for 10 years. But it will occasionally -- Alkove used the vague phrase "at appropriate time intervals" -- generate a new LTS which, Alkove said, "incorporate new functionality."

Enterprises that adopt LTS will be able to move to the newest branch on their own timeline, and may, said Alkove, "be able to skip one." It was unclear whether the latter meant companies may be forced to adopt a newer LTS at some point.


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