Microsoft is announcing more details about its latest OS, Windows 10, this afternoon. The company will talk about the new operating system from a consumer point of view, but ComputerworldUK has found that business users want to hear about how Windows 10 will fit in a more mobile and cloud-based world.
Ovum analyst Richard Edwards believes that getting Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10 will be tough, with different challenges from the consumer and business sides. Features that will make the transition smooth is therefore high on IT managers’ lists.
What do IT managers want from Windows 10?
For example, Julian Bond, head of IT at Hillary’s Blinds, says what he wants to see from Windows 10 is “an OS that’s straightforward for a medium-sized enterprise to deploy, with some fool-proof tools that allow easy automation out-of-the-box”.
The blinds manufacturer uses mainly Windows 7 and some Windows XP, but no Windows 8. It also has Mac OS for “the creative folk” at the business.
Cancer Research UK’s Mick Briggs, head of IT service operations at the charity, agrees that the change needs to be “palatable” for business users.
“Windows 7 to Windows 8 for me was too big a step change. Too much user training was required and hence we skipped it entirely,” he says. The charity uses nearly all Windows 7, with a few Macs.
Meanwhile, Home Retail Group’s infrastructure architect Chris Nixon, believes that in an ideal world, IT managers want OSs to be “an irrelevance”.
Home Retail Group uses a variety of OSs in the client device space. It predominantly uses Windows 7, some Windows XP tied to legacy applications and treated separately for security and malware protection, some Windows 8 on tablets and Mac OS/X. It also has extensive retail applications running on Linux, iOS and Android.
“It is consistent application delivery across multiple platforms that is the key enabler,” Nixon says.
But if the retail group, which owns the brands Argos and Homebase, were to adopt Windows 10, Nixon would like to see a longer lifecycle and a lower cost of ownership.
“Otherwise alternatives will always be sought and that makes environments more complex and difficult to manage and support,” he says.
Windows 10 in a cloud and mobile world
Nixon maintains that enterprise IT, especially in larger organisations, has always been a multi-platform application delivery world. He says that Windows is just one, albeit large in end user areas - part of a wider, heterogeneous computing environment.
“This is being further impacted by cloud computing, the consumerisation of IT and the desire for increased mobility and agility where multiplatform applications with access to data and services, irrespective of location, are the key area - not the OS underlying it,” he says.
To fit in the mobile world, the new Windows OS needs to have a realistic licensing model attached to it, Briggs adds.
“The OS needs to be portable without incurring a new licence cost,” he says. “Just because a user has decided to log into a virtual PC from 20 different devices doesn’t mean 20 people are now benefitting from that single person logging on.”
He adds: “That has to be the case for all software, not just operating systems, otherwise the industry will stifle diversity.”
One way that Microsoft could make a mark in the mobile market is to offer a Windows 10-enabled device that challenges the likes of Google’s Chromebooks.
Home Retail Group’s Nixon, for one, can see a place for such a Windows device.
“The combination of Chromebook with Citrix receiver and a Citrix infrastructure can provide a very light device with the mobility of a laptop, but without the security issues of those laptops. That would be fine for web access and for legacy applications needing a Windows desktop or published application.
“However, our increasingly cloud-based world is not a one size fits all. Consequently, a thin Windows device, linked to Office365 in the cloud with Citrix Received may well have the edge. It will all come down to individual businesses’ computing context.”
Cancer Research UK’s Briggs also sees a role for a Chromebook challenger device.
“More to run VDI to gain mobility over thin client desktop systems,” he says. “Not really what they are meant for, and if the one you mentioned had a ‘delete’ key, that would help. But I do like the look of the new HP netbook-type machines.”
The last Windows OS?
If the role of the operating system is to become irrelevant in today’s enterprise world, could Windows 10 therefore be the last one that businesses upgrade to?
Nixon says that the cost and scale of change means that any new versions of Windows OS will have to feature a compelling reason for migration.
“Having a Windows-based end user environment to date has provided a de facto standard environment, but the mix of access options to applications being driven by mobile, apps stores, consumerisation of IT and cloud application provision is breaking that standard approach,” he says.
But because technology changes so quickly, Briggs doubts that it could be the last OS to be seen from Microsoft.
“IT changes beyond recognition every few years. It will continue to do so as technology allows. Operating systems have to change to adopt innovation - it’s the nature of the beast,” Briggs says.
Microsoft’s corporate model also depends on it, according to Bond.
He says: “Though history says that it might be the last decent one until 2022, if continuing the sequence from 1995!”
Image credit: Microsoft