Windows 10 is here: Here’s what volume licensing customers need to know

windows-10Windows 10 is live, and with it comes product portfolio changes, adjustments to Software Assurance (SA) benefits, and a bevy of new features and enhancements. But perhaps the biggest change is how updates are delivered.

Here is the breakdown of these changes, and considerations for how to acquire Windows 10 licenses moving forward.

The OS for corporate devices, and SA offerings

One version of Windows 10 available to volume licensing customers is designed for corporate smartphones and tablets: Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise. On top of all the same features in Windows 10 Mobile (e.g., Windows Store, universal apps, Cortana, and desktop integration), this edition provides flexibility in the way businesses manage updates on smartphones and small tablets. Customers who have licensed Windows OS under the Per User option will automatically get Mobile Enterprise; it can also be purchased as a standalone upgrade license through the Open License or MPSA program. (Please note that Microsoft has not released standalone pricing for August.)

Additionally, volume licensing customers will have the option to purchase either Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise, and Software Assurance (SA) and Virtual Desktop Access licensing offerings will carry over. Because Windows 10 Pro is sold as an upgrade only, it will be available under the Select Plus, MPSA, and Open licensing programs. Windows 10 Enterprise can be purchased with SA, and Microsoft will offer this edition as a standalone upgrade license in Select Plus, MPSA, and Open licensing.

Finally, volume licensing customers in the education space can upgrade with SA to Windows 10 Education, which has the same features of Windows 10 Enterprise. Just like all the Microsoft operating system upgrade licenses, a qualified underlying operating system license is required.

WaaS – Windows as a Service?

The big news around the Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions is the new upgrade delivery method called Windows as a Service, and the inclusion of Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) as an SA benefit. Windows as a Service acts as the transition from periodic major releases to continual updates, and it gives enterprise organizations added flexibility in how they update user devices.

Microsoft has three methods by which customers can receive updates:

  • Current Branch: Updates will stream to devices, akin to the present Windows Update. However, Current Branch users cannot delay updates.
  • Current Branch for Business: This model regularly delivers security updates, and it permits update deferrals for eight months, giving IT the chance to install updates after broad preview validation. Business customers can start testing as soon as preview features are released via the Windows Insider Program.
  • Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB): Under this more traditional model, security updates and fixes are delivered regularly, and organizations will be able to update at a service pack-level pace.

Windows 10 gives customers several options to manage delivery of updates based on their needs. For example, Windows 10 Enterprise includes LTSB, which caters to devices with strict change management policies where only security and critical updates are required and feature updates are not delivered. Customers that purchase the Enterprise edition can add SA coverage to gain access to Current Branch and Current Branch for Business, along with the ability to deliver new feature updates after increased assurance of validation. On the other hand, Windows 10 Professional only includes Current Branch and Current Branch for Business, and Windows 10 Education Current Branch and Current Branch for Business is available to active SA customers.

It’s important that customers understand the delivery method included in each Windows 10 edition, so they can license Windows based on how they want updates to be delivered to end-user devices.

What got rolled into SA coverage

MDOP was a subscription license a customer needed to buy in addition to SA to take advantage of a suite of technologies that personalize the user experience, simplify application deployment, improve application compatibility, and assist in management and device security. With the release of Windows 10, MDOP is now included through SA coverage.

Customers interested in MDOP can purchase the Windows 10 Enterprise Edition with SA to receive this benefit. Organizations renewing SA, through either the Enterprise Cloud Suite or Windows Enterprise, need to plan for a price increase due to the inclusion of the MDOP technologies.

SHI is a long-time Microsoft partner, and our teams of hardware and software experts – many of whom specialize in Microsoft licensing – can arm your organization with the right information so you can make informed and cost-effective decisions. If you are interested in upgrading Windows 10, need to discuss hardware requirements, or if you need help navigating the Microsoft licensing maze, reach out to your SHI Account Executive.

UPDATE: Aug. 21, 2015 9:55 a.m.

As of Aug. 17, Microsoft released MDOP 2015 with complete support for Windows 10, and it is now available for download for volume licensing customers (as well as MSDN subscribers). Microsoft has more details on enhancements to the MDOP suite.

In addition, Microsoft has published Windows 10 content to help organizations with planning and deploying Windows 10. Resources include: technical demos, IT Pro FAQ and forums, system requirements, and details on key features. Customers can also reach out to their SHI Account Executive if they are interested in speaking to one of SHI’s Windows Migration Solution Specialists.

SHI is hosting a Windows 10 webinar on Aug. 25 at 2 p.m. EDT. Presenters will cover Windows 10 features, the different branch options, and how they impact a customer’s business environment. Register for the Windows 10 webinar today.

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