Windows of opportunity
This summer's launch of Windows 10 promises to be a shot in the arm for the channel finds Amro Gebreel
We now all know that Windows 10 is coming at the end of July, which gives the channel just shy of half a year to exploit the arrival of the latest operating system from Microsoft.
In the good old days, a fresh operating system (OS) meant a chance to push hardware upgrades and encourage customers to make significant investments in the software and infrastructure, but recent Windows launches have perhaps underlined just how far the market has moved away from that situation.
Still, the channel can always hope there will be a sales spike on the back of the arrival of the software and, with the third and fourth quarters in mind, that it will provide a good reason to reap some sales in the second half of 2015. In an attempt to gauge the views of the channel, MicroScope investigated whether or not Windows 10 might produce a positive bounce for channel businesses. Here, we share some of those channel views.
Ashley Leonard, president and CEO, Verismic
Windows 8/8.1 was not popular with users, which could prompt XP and 7 users to jump to Windows 10 when it launches. Microsoft has also said 10 will be a free upgrade for a fixed period, which makes this upgrade jump even more likely.
In any scenario, a flow of OS upgrades stretches IT resources, not just through OS roll-out, but through testing, fixing, repackaging and preparing existing applications for the new environment. It really is no small feat to deploy applications.
Channel businesses – specifically managed service providers (MSPs) – are in a great position to provide this support. They can commit resources to creating, testing, preparing and delivering OS roll-outs and applications packaged with a high first pass success rate.
MSPs need to arm themselves with a simple systems management tool. Pick the right tool and they should be able to benefit from ‘dissolving agent- less’ technology, which means they don’t need to deploy any software at the customer site on any PC to control them – it’s easier and less expensive for them. These will be the channel firms really making a profit from the Windows 10 bonanza.
Asad Malik, managed services product manager, MTI Technology
In the past, Microsoft’s attempts to deliver a user experience similar to Apple and Google have been touch-and-go. After introducing Cortana for Windows Phone (in line with Apple’s Siri and Google Now) as well as the Metro user interface, Microsoft was criticised for being late to the user experience party and not delivering.
However, user experience is but one piece of any new operating system and with Windows 10 slated for a ‘mobile-first, cloud-first’ world, there is a genuine feeling of promise about Microsoft’s next desktop OS.
Whereas Windows 8.1 has been merely patched up to survive in today’s ultra-fast-changing OS landscape, Windows 10 appears to fully embrace the world of mobile and cloud computing. Microsoft resellers should be feeling optimistic about this latest iteration and working out how they can weave it into their sales strategy for 2015.
Clearly, we can acknowledge the influence of Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, on Windows 10. Before the release of Windows 8.1, Microsoft looked at the market and decided what needed to be developed. But this time around, Microsoft has invited the community to influence the eventual release of Windows 10 by deploying a technical beta version of the code – which has seen plenty of downloads and feedback.
This is a clear indication from the vendor that it is looking to get back into the game with old adversaries (Linux vendors), as well as new competitors (Amazon, Google and Apple). With Windows 10, the enter- prise community has a unique opportunity to positively influence this ecosystem.
But, despite inviting its users to help build a better product, a focus around business benefits seems to be amiss. In the age of cloud computing, businesses and their customers are looking for an experience that allows the accessibility of the cloud along-side cast-iron security.
Given this, Microsoft has a tall order to fulfil – Google and Apple have both implemented several recent features to be cloud compatible and more user-friendly. While much can be debated about Windows 10’s core elements, such as security, ease of support and manageability, Microsoft simply needs to ensure it delivers a robust platform that can overcome previous shortcomings. This is what resellers will respond to.
There is no room for error with this release (an impossible feat for software development). What is required in this day and age is immediate fulfillment and zero tolerance for product delays.
The public may once have accepted earlier operating systems more readily, but the onus is now on Microsoft to ensure its platform is flexible, high-performing, scalable and secure if it is to compete and lead the way for computing platforms in the future.
Since it is assumed that Microsoft will deliver consumer-grade experiences with next-to-zero failure rates across the platform, Redmond will need to meet and, indeed, exceed the high bar set by the competition to be seen as an innovator and leader in software development.
All too often, advances in technology can be a distraction, but for the market in 2015, what will Windows 10 really mean? Is it practical, is it productive, and is it a perfect strategy?
Time will tell, but, for now, Microsoft at least seems to be making a concerted effort to reach out to its users on how to improve on Windows 8.1. Perhaps it will be this key strategy that helps Microsoft to avoid falling further behind the other ecosystems in the enterprise space.
Simon Day, professional services director, Comms-care Platform
Microsoft has recognised the deployment challenges of desktop OS transformation projects and is looking to provide more rapid access to the “modern OS environment” that Windows 10 can potentially deliver.
After completing numerous Windows XP to Windows 7 migration projects, the majority that are using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2012 (R2) Comms-care Platform have witnessed first-hand the issues that customers face in doing wipe and reload deployments coupled with hardware replacements and the extended timescales that these projects can take.
Some customers required Windows 8.1 Enterprise support for tablet devices and, where this was the case, many had to upgrade to SCCM 2012 R2 to get full support for the deployment of the OS.
The deployment mechanism that is being brought in with Windows 10 and the transformation process to make changes to deployed devices which will mean a much quicker deployment cycle than from Windows XP to Windows 7, thereby opening up new deployment opportunities.
After consultation with channel partners and their customers, there seems much more acceptance that enterprises will move to the Windows 10 platform, because there are benefits for all sides.
Users have an environment they feel more comfortable with, due to the return of the start menu and improved multi-tasking features. Technically, the in-place upgrades, transformation process and no major changes to the desktop management environment will please IT and business transition managers.
Microsoft’s decision to make this in-place upgrade technology available to Windows 7 devices should be applauded because it will give the channel and customers incentives to move to the new platform.
Daley Robinson, group marketing director, Stone Group
Windows 10 will be a big shot in the arm for the channel. Windows 8 was a good step forwards for devices with touchscreen capability, but it is fair to say that in the segments in which channel customers work, specifically education and public sector, the desktop and notebook are widely used and, as a result, the vast majority of those customers are still using Windows 7 Professional.
From a channel perspective, Windows 10 is important because it will combine the best of what was a highly successful desktop experience – Windows 7 – with Windows 8, which offers a great touch experience.
For IT managers dealing with a major computing deployment across an organisation, it will be important to consider how users will adapt to their new devices and the new operating system with as little retraining and disruption as possible.
The return of the Start button and other familiar features from Windows 7 has to make Windows 10 a good choice for smooth adoption. For Microsoft resellers, the launch of a new OS is something that happens only every few years, giving them the opportunity to take a new message of productivity and security and revise their message on the whole computing experience.
The adoption of a new operating system usually goes hand-in-hand with an investment in new hardware, so the introduction of Windows 10 presents a big opportunity for resellers.
A sales boost from the latest OS may be more prevalent in some markets than others. It will all depend on whether the customer has a volume licence agreement with Microsoft.
Most educational institutions pay for software assurance, so they can upgrade to the latest software at any time. In those circumstances, there will not necessarily be an immediate spike from new hardware sales.
However, in other markets, such as the wider public sector or primary schools that do not have a volume licence agreement, it is quite possible that many of them have been making do with Windows 7 devices that are now up to seven years old.
They will have been waiting for the successor to Windows 8 because of the perceived challenges around the keyboard and mouse experience. It is those organisations that will come back into the market and could provide a sales boost.
Another interesting aspect to Windows 10 is the promise of genuinely universal apps. For the channel, this presents quite an opportunity, with the convergence of experience across a multitude of different devices.
Regardless of whether someone is using Windows 10 on a desktop, smartphone or an embedded device, there is an opportunity for systems integrators and software developers to program bespoke productivity experiences for an organisation based across the whole mobility spectrum.
The consensus seems to be that not only could Windows 10 be a shot in the arm for the channel, but Microsoft has learned the lessons of the past. Fingers crossed that the OS will provide reasons for customers to spend. If nothing else, it will give resellers an opportunity to discuss strategy with their customers.