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Get ready for Windows 10 upgrade

Windows 10 will be released on July 29. Computer Weekly looks at how the new operating system will impact enterprise IT

With Microsoft Windows 10 due to become available in July, many organisations will be planning when to migrate. The majority are still running Windows 7, in spite of having less than five years to migrate before extended support ends.

Today, organisations have far more choice than they did 2009, when Windows 7 was released. At that time, the first iPad was not yet available and Windows was the dominant enterprise operating system (OS).

Threats to Microsoft’s dominance emerged in the form of handheld devices and competitors targeting the business market. Tablets and smartphones introduced the trend of IT consumerisation and Google began selling its office productivity suite, Enterprise, to businesses. 

However, the iPad and Android tablets were not fully-fledged PCs, and Google’s offering fell short compared with the richness of Microsoft Office. As such, the Microsoft alternatives were good enough and, in the case of tablet devices, offered far more convenience. 

Many organisations skipped Windows 8.0 and 8.1 because of the poor user experience of the touch-optimised interface on traditional laptops, but Windows 10 fixes this.

With this backdrop, Microsoft is launching its new OS. 

Windows is no longer the automatic choice for enterprise IT that it once was, and the CIO’s role is radically different. The IT department is now a service broker rather than service provider. 

Peterborough City Council, for example, is changing its IT department to one that commissions services rather than buying on-premise, with plans to deploy Chromebooks or tablet devices to 50% of its staff.

Windows 10 gets enterprise ready

In a video on the Microsoft website demonstrating the new OS, Joe Belfiore, corporate vice-president for the operating systems group at Microsoft, said: “The Start menu is back and you’ll find Live Tiles, which lets you personalise and customise the way Windows works for you – making the things that are most important available at your fingertips.” 

Windows 10 also integrates the Cortana personal digital assistant. Belfiore said Windows 10 PCs will offer face or fingerprint biometric authentication for logging in, through a service dubbed Hello.

The authentication process uses Microsoft Passport, in an attempt to protect users against phishing attacks that steal their login credentials.

According to Belfiore, Windows Hello offers enterprise-grade security that meets the requirements of organisations with some of the strictest requirements and regulations. 

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“It’s a system that government, defence, financial, healthcare and other related organisations will use to enhance their overall security,” said Belfiore.

Microsoft is a board member of Fast Identity Online (Fido) Alliance, which aims to create a standard for secure web authentication. The group is working on a standard for security devices and browser plugins, which it claims will allow any website or cloud application to interface with a variety of existing and future Fido-enabled devices for online security.

In the case of Windows 10 and Passport, Dustin Ingalls, programme manager of Windows security and identity at Microsoft, said in a recent blog post: “Our current implementation reflects our inputs into the Fido 2.0 Specification Technical Working Group.

“Members of the Windows insider programme can start evaluating it right away. The current technical preview build enables a number of enterprise scenarios and showcases our integration with Windows 10 sign-in, Azure Active Directory and access to major software-as-a-service systems, such as Office 365 Exchange Online, Salesforce, Citrix, Box and Concur,” said Ingalls.

Edge browser annotations

Microsoft has made significant changes to the web browser, replacing Internet Explorer with Microsoft Edge. 

On a device with a stylus, Belfiore said the user will be able to write notes directly on the web page. For devices without a stylus, the keyboard and mouse can be used. These notes can then be shared with other people. 

The browser also supports offline reading and lets users switch back to Internet Explorer 11, which may be required to support corporate intranets and web-based applications.

For consumers, Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10, which is valid for qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices, including devices people already own. Businesses using Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise and Windows RT/RT 8.1 are not covered by the free upgrade, but companies on Software Assurance volume licensing will be able to upgrade as part of their subscription.

Windows 10 introduces a programming platform, universal apps and continual updates. Universal apps run on more than one kind of Windows device, including phones, tablets, desktop PCs, Xbox One consoles and even embedded devices, such as Raspberry Pi 2. A unified Windows Store means developers can sell an app once, and users can install it on phones, tablets and PCs.

IT departments will need to assess application compatibility and how desktop IT will change with continual Windows updates. Enterprise applications will also need to use Azure single sign-on if IT hopes to gain the full benefits of Windows 10.

The strong US dollar will make Windows 10 PCs more expensive outside the US, which may affect the take-up of the new operating system among businesses. 

“Large organisations will look to lengthen their PC lifetimes by six months in comparison with 2014, rather than buying less expensive models or removing requirements for key features,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at advisory firm Gartner.

Due to the need for IT departments to check compatibility with business applications, keep on top of regular updates and pay more for Microsoft’s latest operating system, businesses may defer upgrading to Windows 10 and budget for a PC refresh in 2016.

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