Anyone that has had to work with Microsoft licensing knows that its licensing structure is difficult to understand and broken. And, to make matters worse, you can get different explanations depending on who you talk to, or which department you reach, at Microsoft. You almost have to have a degree in science to figure out all the nuances of volume licensing. My buddy, Wes Miller (@getwired), with Directions on Microsoft, travels the world helping teach licensing in a two-day Microsoft Licensing Boot Camp.
Customers have longed for a much simpler licensing system. Microsoft has made changes over the years, promising with each modification that customer pains had finally been addressed. They hadn't, and still haven't. Why can't Enterprise licensing work like more modern services? There's no question that it can't. Look at Microsoft's more recent services like Azure and Office 365 for examples. "I want this, for this long, for this many computers." Done.
A lot of folks are getting stuck on the new features showcasing in the recent release of the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Articles are being written describing each feature in details, and providing reviews as if Windows 10 is a completed product already. Microsoft has stated that what we're experiencing in this first Technical Preview release is only about 20% of what to expect in the final, shipping product. Personally (I talked about this earlier), once I jumped through the provided features, I was bored. Windows 10 is not quite my bag, but it could be soon.
So, I believe it's more important to focus on what Microsoft is promising. The future of Windows 10 for business is looking promising – particularly when it comes to volume licensing.
In addition to Windows 10, Microsoft is working to unify its core OS so that it works across more platforms. Eventually, Windows, Windows Server, Windows Phone, IoT devices, and even Xbox will share the same base code. Today, Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox each have their own app stores, separated as if they were all developed by different companies. In the near future, with a shared code base, Microsoft will be able to blend them all together Microsoft in a newly envisioning unified app store.
The Windows app store we have today as part of Windows 8.1, provides both Metro and Desktop apps. Metro apps are delivered straight from the store while Desktop apps link to the software supplier's web site. It's tough to tell if this piece will actually change (3rd party app integration), but what will change is that Microsoft intends to deliver all of its own apps through the new store – and, this includes volume app purchases. Based on an organizational identity, companies will login, select the appropriate software licenses, and have them delivered electronically – all without chatting with a licensing expert or having to pull out a scientific calculator to do complex math calculations. In addition, the new store will take on very Enterprise like features, allowing companies to create a custom store and reclaim and re-use licenses.
There are several vendors (examples: 1E, Flexera) that provide Enterprise app store functionality now as installable, on-premises systems, and it will be interesting to see if Microsoft can catch up to those already entrenched in the Enterprise app store market. System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune provides for some of this capability now, but is pretty basic in function. Microsoft has a tendency to provide "just good enough" capability, leaving wide holes for 3rd party vendors to step up and fill the gaps. But, Microsoft is changing, and its offerings are improving.
So, while many are hammering away at the UI changes and a modicum of Windows 10 Technical Preview features, there's actually a lot more coming (80% more according to Microsoft). Microsoft seems to be invested in capturing customer pain points and finding ways to alleviate them. If the company can finally fix the burden of product licensing, they might be on the right track. Every Microsoft customer would stand and applaud if this finally gets fixed. This is truly something to look forward to.
As we get closer to seeing the new app store functionality, I'll try to wrangle Wes to get his take on it.