Microsoft has unveiled plans to allow channel partners to sell Windows 10 Enterprise Edition E3 on a subscription basis – perhaps the biggest change to the licensing model over the operating system's history.
Starting in September, partners in Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program – both one-tier resellers and two-tier distributors – will be able to provide customers with a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 at a list price of US$7 per user per month, said Matt Barlow, Microsoft's general manager for Windows marketing.
That cost has a built-in profit margin for partners, though Barlow declined to specify the amount.
The Windows 10 E3 SKU is similar to Office 365 E3, and allows users to run the system on up to five devices.
Until now, Windows 10 Enterprise has mostly been deployed by large businesses with thousands of users. The subscription option and price point should make it more attractive to smaller organisations, said Barlow.
Nic Fillingham, Microsoft senior partner and channel marketing manager, said that the complexities of Microsoft volume licensing had deterred smaller businesses from deploying the enterprise edition of Windows 10.
Customers that want Windows 10 Enterprise currently need to go through volume licensing and sign a software assurance agreement, which puts it “out of reach for small business, less than 250 seats”, he said.
“This completely opens the door,” added Fillingham.
Barlow said security was a major draw card for Windows Home and Pro users to upgrade to Enterprise edition, which offers Device Guard and Credential Guard. Device Guard locks down a device so that it can only run trusted applications, while Credential Guard uses virtualisation-based security to protect against credential theft attacks, such as “pass-the-hash” attacks
Fillingham added that deployment was dramatically simplified versus traditional enterprise installs.
“If you said ‘enterprise deployment’ two years ago, it meant bring in a partner, it was a project, it took two months, you will have downtime, they will need to come in and touch the machine – it was a big deal. Now for a small business, it is literally through the cloud, two minutes, they don’t touch the machine.”
CSP partners can bundle Windows 10 E3 subscription with other Microsoft cloud SKUs, such as Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, as well as adding their own managed services fee onto the customer invoice, Barlow added.
Microsoft is also hoping that the Windows 10 Enterprise subscription option might prompt an upgrade at businesses that are still running older versions of Windows, such as the popular Windows 7. Many businesses have not been enticed yet by Microsoft's free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro or Home, which is being offered through 29 July.
Steven Kiernan is a guest of Microsoft at Worldwide Partner Conference