Microsoft kicked off the Ignite conference yesterday. The event is the combination of its IT pro-oriented TechEd conference along with the smaller Exchange, SharePoint and Lync conferences it had run at various points over the past decade. Here some initial thoughts and impressions of the keynotes and product announcements.
Windows Update for Business
A sleeper announcement yesterday started off the keynote: Windows Update for Business, or a cloud-based version of the Windows Server Update Services that has formed the basis of corporate patch management everywhere.
Windows Update for Business sort of sits in the middle of these two and supports the branches and distribution rings that are a part of the servicing plan for Windows 10 in the future. (Remember that Windows 10 is the last major version release of Windows, and future updates to the operating system will include new features and capabilities and will be delivered through an update process, as opposed to today's system of relicensing and reinstalling or upgrading to newer versions of Windows.)
Windows Update for Business is meant for smaller shops without a dedicated patch management process, or perhaps departments that operate somewhat autonomously such as in university settings, but that desire to control updates without letting Microsoft just spray and pray patches and features into their systems. Windows Update for Business will be free as long as you already have Windows Pro or Windows Enterprise licenses. It is not meant for consumers who will continue to use the revamped Windows Update interface built into Windows.
Why Windows 10 makes sense for enterprises
A large portion of the keynote was spent unabashedly attempting to make the case for Windows 10 in the enterprise, especially after the dismal reception Windows 8 (at least initially) received. The main points here were the following:
- Windows 7 features and interface largely carried over. The Start menu works as you would expect, with new features carefully added where they make sense. Windows can overlap in both Metro and standard mode. Windows 7 folks can sit down and be productive on Windows 10 without much fuss rather than being thrown into a new environment with which they are unfamiliar.
- An intelligent Cortana that gets smarter. Cortana can interface with the indexing service so your users can ask questions about what files they have and more interestingly what is contained within those files. For instance, "Hey, Cortana, show me all of the PowerPoint slide decks I have about Project X," or "Hey, Cortana, how many units did we sell in North America of the Project X Preview last year?"Cortana can also help with routine PC support requests, like finding out which keystroke combination enables your screen to be projected in a meeting. And Microsoft can take a look at broad metrics about how Cortana is being used and make her more intelligent as the months go by through its always-on servicing.
- Virtual desktops. Not exactly for novice users, but intermediate users and those without multiple monitors at their workstations will find the virtual desktop feature to be particularly interesting — you can have up to four virtual workspaces each with their own "pinned" apps, and you can drag apps between workspaces using the taskbar. A quick Control + Windows + left arrow or Control + Windows + right arrow moves seamlessly between the virtual workspaces. This is a feature that's been supported by third party utilities for a long time, but it is nice and welcome to see it baked into the core Windows operating system.
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