Thanks Microsoft: Cyborg Licensing User-Based Windows OS Is Here

Bring Your Own (and Be Your Own) Device Within Reach

Lane Shelton

Microsoft has embraced “by device” selling for their Windows desktop operating system since what feels like the beginning of time. But change has compounded over the past several years and truly transformed our computing experience. So much so that ordinary end-users (myself included) are lugging around a bagful of devices in order to stay connected at all times. We all want to work and play on devices that we choose to use – not to be hampered by things like file synchronization and compatibility or good taste getting in our way. As a result, we are slowly but surely becoming a community of cyborgs. Finally, Microsoft is listening! We want to bring our own device and even BE our own device. What does that all really mean?

Picture the future, a society wearing various computing devices all over their bodies, and maybe someday inside their bodies. Ok, maybe don’t picture that part. But here’s the main point, cyborgs need user-based licensing for software because in that not-too-far-off day WE may actually be one of those devices. And then the conversations about compliance, licensing, and software asset management will end up in some very weird places.

Microsoft has been traveling the user-based licensing path for some time. Let’s do a quick recap for those not familiar. Several years ago it started with the ability to license access to servers by user or by device. Then came Office 365, this successfully brought the user-based model to Office. If Microsoft can make Office user-based, it was only a matter of time before they went all-in and converted the Windows OS. The new offering is part of their “Enterprise Cloud Suite” (ECS) which means you can acquire Office 365 and the new Enterprise Mobility Suite as part of the overall package, then you get user-based Windows. Or, if going for the bundle isn’t the right move, user-based Windows will be available as an “Enterprise Product” via the Enterprise Agreement.

For now, the new ECS bundle makes good sense–if you’re operating a cloud-first, mobile-first environment, this package is a one-stop-shop for a software productivity stack that gets the job done. If you are ready to embrace it, feel the love, it’s a great deal. You’ll have everything you need: Office, Windows, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and a platform for containing the chaos of device-sprawl. If that’s you–the new ECS offering is definitely worth a look. The licensing is all user-based, which means you just need to keep track of how many people you have.

Lets Dig A Little Deeper

Let me share my assessment for the customer, and for the provider (me). For the customer, it could mean simpler licensing, albeit with software subscriptions rather than actually owning licenses. That has positives and negatives that I’ve discussed in other articles, but we can’t ignore that it’s becoming the reality.

What About Compliance?

For compliance, it’s usually easier to get a handle on the number of users out there rather than trying to interpret asset inventory reports for counting devices. And with the nature of subscription licensing there’s usually a portal where you can see your subscriptions (and so can the publisher), and users generally can’t get software if they’re not a subscriber. Whew, that said there could also be less compliance risk.

What About Complexity?

Perhaps in time the complexity may decrease. But thus far, I contend that there are still a number of choices to be made about which plans to purchase, and who gets them. Then you have to be able to track who has what to make sure it all aligns with the licensing. That can be a non-trivial challenge, so licensing complexity is going to get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.

And ta da, that’s where Connection comes in. These new models break the software asset management tools and processes that have been around for years. How do I pull a report that shows me all my users, which devices they have and how that aligns with my software subscriptions? Spoiler alert – it’s very difficult. I’m trying to do just that with several customers right now and I can tell you first-hand that it is not as easy as it sounds. And think down the road when this is the norm – consuming software will be a lot like consuming telecom. I’ll get a bill from the publisher for what I’m using – how do I know that bill is right? How do I know if I’m overpaying? These are the new challenges we face, and we’re working very hard to get ahead of these very issues everyday. Then bring you solutions so when you’re ready to make the move, we’ll be ready to help.

And we’ll be helping you with our laptops, slates, smart watches, smart glasses, and shoe phones – because we are cyborgs and that’s how we roll.

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