In the past few years, Microsoft’s strategy for the future has become more and more obvious. Selling Windows and its associated products with full licenses is no longer the preferred vision for the company’s future, and they’re just a little jealous of how others are selling subscriptions to software instead of fully packaged products. We first saw this with Office 365, a subscription for the Office apps, OneDrive backups, and Skype. This week Microsoft took the next step, offering Windows on a subscription basis for qualifying businesses and organisations.
Normally this wouldn’t be something consumers would have to think or worry about, but this announcement is kind of special. If you’re a systems administrator for sizeable company, managing licenses for users and computers becomes a dull pain that dries out your soul slowly. Microsoft 365 aims to revamp that with a different approach, split into Microsoft 365 Business and Enterprise.
The Business version supports organisations up to 300 users. As the admin, you’d be able to assign licenses to computers with a centralised interface that allows you to set things up with a few clicks remotely, assigning software licenses to users or computers as needed. This is an attractive offering, especially because this was a much trickier responsibility in the past. This is a better version of the revamped volume license offerings that Microsoft had for Windows 8, where scaling up and down didn’t require you to sign new agreements every time a change was made. Maybe old-school admins won’t like the new approach, but there’s definitely time saved by going this route (though it’s less secure).
For more than 300 users, Microsoft 365 Enterprise offers the same add-ons currently available through volume licensing with existing suites including services that turn Skype into a PBX replacement, but you have to approach a Microsoft sales representative directly to order it. Microsoft 365 Business, on the other hand, can be ordered just like any other software subscription on the net. The whole system runs on Azure Active Directory, so it’ll also work for third-party mobile devices like iPhones and Android smartphones. At $20 per user, a fully utilised license is $6,000 per month, or $72,000 per year. It’s been years since I was involved in Windows software sales or volume licensing, but that’s good value.
Consumers need to keep an eye on this as well, though. In the future, we’ll probably have an offering from Microsoft that bumps you up from Windows 10 S or Home to a Windows 10 Pro installation for a few dollars a month. This would be useful for people who freelance on projects that might require them to have Pro for a little while, reverting back to the previous license once the job is done. It’s a strange thing to think about, but we already have companies like Adobe doing this for their software. If you could do this as a part of your billing procedures, getting the customers to pick up the bill for your temporary license upgrade, then I see little reason why this shouldn’t happen. Those who need the power user features every day can use the full-fat licensing options already available, and those who don’t can get by with Windows 10 S or Home.