Microsoft updates licensing for Windows desktop operating system

Microsoft announced a change to licensing options for Windows Enterprise edition on March 1. Below I provide an overview of the changes and how they might impact organizations looking to take advantage of the features and functionalities.

Historically, Windows Enterprise edition has been only available through the acquisition of Windows Professional with Software Assurance (SA). Organizations that wanted these capabilities needed to purchase them through one of the following means:

  • A new upgrade License with SA
  • The renewal of existing SA
  • The acquisition of SA only within 90 days of OEM or a Full Packaged Product (FPP) purchase

These procurement options were accompanied by certain restrictions on the type of qualifying volume licensing programs. For example, organizations couldn’t acquire SA within 90 days of OEM or FPP purchase under the Enterprise Agreement program, only via Select or Open. In addition, the ability to renew existing SA depended on keeping maintenance current to ensure continuity of coverage. SA renewal rules are defined in the Microsoft Product List.

Microsoft will now provide Windows Enterprise edition as an upgrade License only offering moving forward, making the features of Enterprise edition available to organizations not invested in Windows annuity licensing or programs. In addition, SA will come standard with the Windows Enterprise edition only, eliminating the Windows Professional Upgrade with SA option. Organizations with active SA on Windows Professional will have the option to renew using the Windows Enterprise SA SKU.

Finally, the option of acquiring SA only within 90 days of OEM or FPP purchase will no longer be permissible. To ease the transition, Microsoft will allow organizations to continue to attach SA only within 90 days on all new PCs with Windows Pro purchased before July 1. However, to add SA on devices purchased on or after July 1 organizations will need to purchase Windows Enterprise Upgrade with SA.

Provided below is a breakdown of available Windows editions and a list of applicable licensing scenarios by volume licensing program:

Windows Enterprise licensing options

*Note: Windows Pro with SA SKU provided rights to Windows Enterprise edition.

Microsoft will still offer the Windows Pro upgrade License only SKU for organizations not interested in the Windows Enterprise functionalities. As referenced above, this SKU will be available under the Select and Open business programs at the same cost. However, organizations that want to purchase the Windows Enterprise upgrade License only option will pay approximately 50 percent more than the Professional edition.

It’s important to remember that although Windows Enterprise will be available as a License only offering, traditional SA benefits will remain intact. These benefits, such as virtual desktop access (VDA) rights, MDOP access, new version rights, virtualization rights, and more still require commitment to SA coverage on the Windows Enterprise license.

How is your organization affected?

The impact of these changes to organizations will range in scope and will depend on the current edition of Windows, required features and functionalities, volume licensing vehicles leveraged, and cost to procure licenses moving forward. Organizations already licensing their Windows Desktop OS on an EA today will see little impact, as the licensing model and pricing will remain intact. On the other hand, organizations that have traditionally procured Windows Enterprise licenses through SA Attach within 90 days of OEM or FPP license purchase will need to start to weigh a new method to obtain SA. In addition, organizations procuring Windows Pro upgrade License only will now have the option to purchase Windows Enterprise upgrade License only, assuming the features and functionalities of Enterprise edition are in scope.

As with any change to Microsoft licensing, evaluate your options with the assistance of your Software Advisor. Please reach out to your SHI Account Executive for further assistance.

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