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Despite a surge of new Google and Apple products in government enterprise infrastructures over the past few years, Microsoft still dominates the end user operating system environments in federal, state and local governments. Windows 7 is still the de facto standard for enterprise desktop environments in the private sector as well.
Meanwhile, on the server side, Linux is winning, but Microsoft is still hanging on in within many datacenters and in cloud offerings. And while Android is leading in the smartphone and tablet space, Apple iOS and Microsoft are also government players.
So government enterprises must continue to pay close attention to new plans coming from Redmond, Washington, even as they plan strategic investments in a range of future platforms.
Last September, Microsoft announced Windows 10 was coming soon. We now know that the new operating system will be rolled out this summer and be free to consumers who are running the latest versions of Windows 7 or Windows 8. However, enterprise customers will need to pay for the upgrades and start planning now to be ready.
In an official Microsoft blog by Terry Myerson, the broad scope and the strategic importance of this Windows 10 upgrade became clear. Here’s an excerpt:
Windows 10 will run across an incredibly broad set of devices – from the Internet of Things, to servers in enterprise datacenters worldwide. Some of these devices have 4 inch screens – some have 80 inch screens – and some don’t have screens at all. Some of these devices you hold in your hand, others are ten feet away. Some of these devices you primarily use touch/pen, others mouse/keyboard, others controller/gesture – and some devices can switch between input types.
We’re not talking about one UI to rule them all – we’re talking about one product family, with a tailored experience for each device….
I like that last sentence, which plays off of the Lord of the Rings theme, and yet this new Microsoft vision is very ambitious and no doubt complex. It will mean that infrastructure teams need to think about mobile, server, cloud and other key infrastructure roadmaps and they lay out multi-year tactical and strategic plans.
Most state and local governments in the USA have a huge installed base of Windows 7 and some Windows 8. Add in the changes coming to Microsoft Office and other apps, and this could become one of the most important operating system upgrade decisions ever.
The top coverage of Windows 10 has continued as we rolled into 2015, with this article from Europe:
Microsoft’s strategy is to deliver that unified experience with a common platform across all devices. If you are looking seriously at how to make your workforce more productive and mobile, Windows 10 is something you should consider as part of that.
What’s New & Exciting in the New OS?
In Windows 10, the use of universal apps will allow applications to run across multiple device types, tying together the Windows and Windows Phone ecosystems.
Security improvements are also front and center. According to CTOvision.com:
Outside of the more notable and talked about features—friendlier UI, improved device manageability including MDM, easier operating system deployment (OSD), universal applications, and a customizable store portal for organizations—Windows 10 comes with something even more important - deeper security. Microsoft's Jim Alkove addressed this issue by highlighting the many built-in security protections Microsoft feels will hinder these security breaches. Multi-factor authentication for both cloud-based accounts and on-premise Active Directory will now be part of Windows, rather needing a hardware solution to complete. This is in addition to new file-level encryption to protect an Enterprise’s data wherever it goes.
Microsoft HoloLens will also be enabled by Windows 10 and make holograms a reality for users who want to use a virtual reality headset. According to the Microsoft website:
Microsoft HoloLens goes beyond augmented reality and virtual reality by enabling you to interact with three-dimensional holograms blended with your real world. Microsoft HoloLens is more than a simple heads-up display, and its transparency means you never lose sight of the world around you. High-definition holograms integrated with your real world will unlock all-new ways to create, communicate, work, and play.
Another big change will be the available free upgrade for consumers, which should help maintain the global installed base.
The free-upgrade offer is for consumers upgrading their own computers. It’s not available to users of enterprise licenses of Windows: If you want to upgrade the machine on your desk at your big corporate job, the free offer won’t apply. Your IT department won’t get a bunch of free upgrades to give out; they’ll have to pay for them.
Project Spartan: The Beginning of the End of Internet Explorer?
Living in mid-Michigan, the name “Project Spartan” sounds like a rebuilding effort for a Michigan State University sports program. But, of course, it has another meaning.
"Project Spartan is Microsoft's next generation browser, built just for Windows 10," Microsoft said in an emailed statement. "We will continue to make Internet Explorer available with Windows 10 for enterprises and other customers who require legacy browser support."
Will it be the beginning of the end for the IE brand? Many people think it will - eventually.
Internet Explorer will still exist in some versions of Windows 10 mainly for enterprise compatibility, but the new Project Spartan will be named separately and will be the primary way for Windows 10 users to access the web. Microsoft has tried, unsuccessfully, to shake off the negative image of Internet Explorer over the past several years with a series of amusing campaigns mocking Internet Explorer 6….
There are still way to many applications which are tied to using IE in many online situations, so I expect to still see IE versions around for many years to come. Nevertheless, watch out for IE becoming the new legacy replacement browser for enterprise technology shops, with "end of life" announcements coming to enterprise near you.
Closing Thoughts on Windows 10
I recently wrote a blog for LinkedIn pointing out that XP Migration is Back: Get Ready for a Support Price Jump.
My advice to CSOs and CISOs and other security leaders was to become engaged regarding the final leg of the XP Migration – and my same advice applies here with the strategic and tactical decisions regarding Windows 10 planning.
Don’t head into migration meetings with the traditional “I told you so” motto. On the contrary, become a part of the enterprise solution. There are security implications and much more at stake.
You can even become and “Insider” and test-out early versions of Windows 10. This video provides some insights.
Finally, don’t wait to be asked, but volunteer your to help prepare your public or private sector enterprise for Windows 10 and the coming new Microsoft browser.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Windows 10. Has your IT infrastructure team started planning yet?