Microsoft Continues Courting the Enterprise

Cementing its commitment to enterprise computing are three key products from Microsoft: OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business and the newly released Windows 10 OS.

While many other products and services could fit that bill, these three are key if the company wants to live up to its goal of being a "platforms and productivity" company.

OneDrive for Business
It helps they have evolved from technology Microsoft has provided for a long time, but it's how they've advanced into their newest incarnations that's critical moving forward. Microsoft is betting that offering vast amounts of cloud storage with OneDrive for Business for Office 365 and SharePoint shops will cement their roles in delivering core collaboration services. OneDrive for Business has a lot to offer but many have found it difficult to understand. Nikkia Carter's walk-through of OneDrive for Business, which begins on p.16, lays out how it can become the storage repository for Office and SharePoint files.

Skype for Business
Skype for Business is the latest iteration of Microsoft's ambition to bring the phone and conference experience to the desktop and meeting rooms. What's new is under the new regime led by CEO Satya Nadella neither are dependent on Windows remaining the dominant force on desktops and mobile systems. Maggie Swearingen has spent several months using Skype for Business and explains all its different components.

Windows 10
Windows 10 stands out as the most obvious piece of Microsoft's effort to retain the desktop and bring its OSes to tablets and phones.

The fervor for Windows 10, released July 29 and to enterprises Aug. 1, is much greater than anyone might have expected a year ago at this time, when distaste for Windows 8.x had many wondering if it was the end of the line for the client OS. Debate rages among those who believe its downward spiral will continue and others who believe it'll defy the most optimistic expectations. Most are somewhere in the middle and only time will tell.

Early indications continue to suggest there will be significant demand among business PC users, though it's less clear whether the new OS will boost the Microsoft share of the tablet market. A survey conducted by Spiceworks Inc. in May found 50 percent are interested in running it on a tablet, while a surprising 31 percent are looking at it on smartphones. Yet 85 percent are interested in running Windows 10 on desktops and 83 percent on notebooks, suggesting that's where the action will remain for Windows. More than half (55 percent) of 675 Redmond magazine readers responding to an online survey conducted in late June said that they plan to upgrade their existing PCs to Windows 10 within one year. According to the survey, 21 percent will do so within the first three months and 35 percent say they intend to upgrade within the first six months.

With the release of Windows 10, 35 percent of those responding said they plan to refresh their PCs at a faster pace than before. On the other hand, 65 percent have no plans to expedite PC refreshes, according to our poll.

The Spiceworks survey of 500 users found a smaller but still respectable 40 percent will upgrade within the first year. Even that sounds a bit high, says Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. He believes a more realistic figure is between 20 percent and 30 percent, though he adds there are too many variables for anyone to predict. "I don't believe any research out there is worth anything because upgrades will be dependent on the promotions Microsoft does," Moorhead says. "We haven't seen them yet, but they're coming."

Microsoft's plan to offer consumers Windows 10 as a free upgrade could have an impact on demand for new systems given that the new OS could extend the life of older systems. Among others, IDC attributes Microsoft's free upgrade as a factor in declining PC demand this year. Another reason is last year saw a spike, thanks to the end of life of Windows XP.

However, only those with Windows 7 (or later) Home and Pro editions are eligible for free Windows 10 upgrades. Volume licensees and those with Enterprise editions must have Software Assurance to get the Windows 10 upgrade, which has to be downloaded from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Servicing Center.

Microsoft has indicated it sees a strong pipeline for new PCs and devices despite its push to get customers to upgrade their existing systems. In addition to Windows 10, many business customers are awaiting new systems based on the latest chipsets from Intel Corp., notably the new Skylake processors, which are set to offer a major boost in improvement over its Broadwell CPU.

"All of the hardware vendors are readying new designs based on Skylake and to take advantage of the new Windows design with thinner, lighter and better battery life," says Moorhead, who believes Windows 10 will be a popular OS. Despite the obvious criticism of its predecessor, Moorhead believes the return of application developers will be key to its success. "I believe there will be many more apps in this ecosystem," he says, "if nothing else because of the ease for which you can get them into Windows 10."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.