Windows 10 Arrival Heralds New Era for Channel

By Michael Vizard
Windows 10 family

With the formal release today of Windows 10, Microsoft is clearly looking forward to the beginning of a new era where services are delivered via what is rapidly becoming a gateway to the cloud.

Although no can be certain at what rate IT organizations will migrate to cloud, optimism across the Microsoft ecosystem is fairly high.

"We're seeing a high level of interest from our corporate customers," said Peter Fontana, director of the software program management office at Dell. "From what we're hearing from Microsoft, we think most of the activity will be in 2016 versus the usual 18- to 24-month upgrade cycle."

To help spur that demand, Dell like most PC manufacturers unveiled today a raft of PCs and services that support Windows 10. Of course, spurring much of the initial upgrade activity is the simple fact that upgrades to Windows 10 as of today are free for one year. The degree to which IT organizations will take advantage of that opportunity to migrate to Windows 10 using existing systems—versus waiting to buy new ones—remains to be seen. However, doing an in-place migration might not be practical on many of the systems still running Windows 7 today.

On the plus side for Microsoft, a recent survey of 500 IT professionals conducted by Spiceworks, a provider of IT management tools, finds that not only did 90 percent of them say they are interested in Windows 10; a full 60 percent said their IT organization has already evaluated a preview copy.

Sanjay Castelino, vice president of marketing for Spiceworks, said much of that interest is being driven by the enhanced management and security functions that Microsoft has embedded inside Windows 10, the fact that the upgrade itself is free for the first year and the fact that Windows 10 seems to be a much more natural migration from Windows 7 than Windows 8 ever was.

"Simple things like including the Start Button in Windows 10 make a big difference," Castelino said. "Most of these organizations are still running Windows 7."

But there's also a world of difference between an IT professional running Windows 10 to evaluate and a company making a commitment to run Windows 10 in production. A survey of 186 Microsoft customers conducted by Adaptiva, a provider of operating system migration and deployment tools, finds that 71 percent plan to wait at least six months after the Windows 10 release date to migrate, with 49% planning to wait a year or more.

"Enthusiasm for Windows 10 does not necessarily mean organizations are ready to take on the migration challenges," Adaptiva CTO Deepak Kumar said. "Upgrades are still a logistical nightmare."

While very few organizations may make a wholesale shift to Windows 10 overnight, once the first few Windows updates are released to address any lingering potential security or application compatibility issues, the pace of the upgrade process might start to pick up. However, for the most part, much of that initial adoption is expected to be focused on mobile computing devices, such as the Microsoft Surface 3.

Given all the benefits Windows 10 provides to both the internal IT organization and the end user, the operating system's adoption might still outpace the adoption of Windows 7. Of course, one of the biggest challenges IT organizations will face will be managing that transition. Not only will there be multiple instances of Windows that need to be managed simultaneously, but organizations now routinely are making use of devices running Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems.

Nabeel Youakim, vice president of product management and strategic partners for Windows app delivery at Citrix, said that additional level of complexity will drive more IT organizations to adopt desktop virtualization as way to simplify the management of those environments while providing broader access to Windows applications running on servers or in the cloud.

"A lot of end users will be pushing IT to adopt Windows 10, but there will be a lot of application compatibility issues," Youakim said. "We think that will create a lot of opportunity for desktop virtualization discussions."

In fact, assuming there are going to be 380 million migrations to Windows 10 in the first year alone, Youakim said, it only takes a small percentage of those deployments to expand the overall size of the desktop virtualization market considerably.

From a solution provider perspective, the most important thing about Windows 10 may not be how it actually gets delivered, but rather all the downstream cloud services and associated business consulting opportunities it will enable.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.

This article was originally published on 2015-07-29