Recently I wrote about why Windows 10 has been offered for free to the millions and millions of Windows 7 and 8 users: profit. Get ’em hooked on your shiny new OS, and then reel them in when it comes time to start upgrading your businesses, all who employ people who have become familiar with the new OS (whether they wanted to or not). But wait, Chris, isn’t Windows 10 free for businesses too? Maybe the small ones, but when you have more than a couple dozen computers, your Windows and Office applications are typically acquired through one of Microsoft’s myriad licensing programs. Up until now, one of the licensing options many businesses opted for was essentially a one time purchase of Windows for each computer, providing a license that did not need to be renewed (unless you wanted support directly from Microsoft), and in certain cases, was transferable from computer to computer as you upgraded. This model is changing with Windows 10 Enterprise, and presumably at some point in the future, for all flavors of Windows going forward. Starting this Fall, companies who want to upgrade their fleets of computers to 10 will pay $84/seat/year.
What this means for you:
With previous versions of Windows, Microsoft had committed to providing updates and patches essentially for the life of the product. You bought Windows once, presumably when you bought your computer, and never another dime to Microsoft after that. Though they haven’t outright said so, the subscription model for Windows implies that unless your subscription is maintained, updates and even certain functionality will cease when your subscription lapses. Any of you who have had your Office365 subscription lapse may have already experienced this: the software isn’t removed from your computer, but certain key functions are disabled, such as printing and saving, until your subscription is reactivated. This was a rude awakening for some who were used to the buy-it-once models of Office 2007 and 2010. Microsoft has gone on record stating that the Windows 10 licenses acquired through their free upgrade offer this past year will remain free for the “life of the machine” on which it is installed, but as you may have suspected, this free license is tied to that specific machine, and is not transferrable to a different computer. For the moment, the non-Enterprise versions of Windows 10 appear to be free of subscription hooks, but don’t count on it lasting much longer.
If you had asked me 10 years ago whether something like this would ever happen, I’d have had a good laugh and then asked you to share whatever it was you had been drinking. But here we are, 2014, and strange bedfellows Apple and IBM have announced a “landmark” partnership in pursuit of enterprise business. And just like a Disney fairytale or the famously delicious chocolate-peanut butter confection, it turns out the mis-matched pair were made for each other after all.
Let me ‘splain:
You may have noticed that Apple, despite the proliferation of iOS devices throughout the business world, has, up until now, remained staunchly consumer focused. The primary plank in its branding was to demonstrate just how “not corporate” its devices were. Conversely, can anyone remember a time when IBM was ever viewed as anything but the epitome of big business? You can bet Apple is painfully aware of how much money it’s leaving on the table by not playing in the corporate and enterprise space, and IBM is just as painfully aware of how “not sexy” its current service offerings are. If you’ve ever used enterprise software (SAP, Oracle, Peoplesoft, etc.) then you know just how awful the experience is. Now imagine Apple lending its design sensibilities to a UI that interfaces with IBM’s monstrously powerful back office software – and oh, by the way, you can use it on this shiny iPad? Move over Brangelina, here comes the new “power couple” of the decade!
Adobe dared what other software companies have only dabbled in doing: converting their entire, hugely popular software library into a rental-only commodity. Why do software companies aspire to this model? As you might suspect, users of expensive software packages like Adobe’s Creative Suite or Microsoft’s Office products are able to enjoy multiple years of use from the software before reluctantly upgrading, a consumer trend that bodes ill for any software manufacturer bottom line. The solution: make your highly desirable products only available for rent, or in software parlance: “subscription-based”, guaranteeing you a regular income that will make shareholders dance with glee. While this move has angered a large number of Adobe users, the software company was able to pull the plug on ownership because of the virtual stranglehold it has on this particular category of software, especially its flagship products Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom, for which there is virtually no competition its users are willing to consider.
What this means for you:
Adobe’s success (or failure) will determine how other companies proceed. Microsoft already has an extensive subscription-based offering of its productivity suite, which can be rented for what most in the business world consider to be a fair price, especially seeing as how critical Office is in daily business, but “rentals” are only a fraction of its overall sales, which still come through more traditional licensing channels. Annual licensing and maintenance has long been an accepted and expected revenue generator on the enterprise side, a means to bolster profits from an ownership model that came from lengthy software development cycles that are growing shorter and shorter every year. Adobe’s justification behind the subscription model maintains that subscribers will be able to enjoy continuous improvement to and expansion of their products. The question remains, however, whether business is ready for applications and platforms that continually change. While new features and improvements are always welcome, the constant change also present bugs, security holes and training challenges that are definitely not covered by the subscription. Where before companies could control the rate at which their critical business software was changed, now they may have to join a race in which the finish line is constantly moved away from the partipants.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Just a week after the debut of Windows 8, Microsoft held a press event in San Francisco, CA to announce the arrival of the latest version of its smartphone platform, dubbed Windows Phone 8. Timed to coincide with (and possibly to even eclipse) Google’s canceled East-coast press event, Microsoft instead had to fight for media attention with Hurricane Sandy. As a distant fourth place competitor, Microsoft has struggled to gain a toe hold in the smartphone race, facing daunting leads from Apple and Google, and even trailing the flagging RIM Blackberry platform.
What this means for you:
Unless you are a true-blue Microsoft fanatic, you more than likely already own a smartphone that gets the job done. There is a distinct possibility for Microsoft to overtake RIM’s Blackberry platform as the corporate phone of choice, but many enterprises have already opened their iron curtains for iPhones and Android devices. Gaining RIM’s share of the pie will only put them in 3rd place, and as such, integration into corporate environments will still take a backseat to solidifying usage of the dominant platforms. Most adopters of this platform will either be disatisfied technophiles looking for something fresh and different from iOS and Android, or corporate technologists investigating the platforms ability to integrate with existing Microsoft infrastructure. Microsoft’s primary hurdle in getting people to buy Windows phone remains in the lackluster app development landscape, which continues to be dominated by iPhone. Many of the most popular apps aren’t available yet for Windows Phone 8, and their arrival (if they come at all) will likely lag iOS and Android versions by months. If your primary smartphone usage is focused on making calls, checking email, and sharing pictures with your phone, Windows Phone 8 will get the job done, but if you like apps and don’t consider yourself an “early adopter”, give the platform at least another 6 months before weighing a change in platforms.