Commentary: Microsoft is looking to power PC users as a key driver behind the enterprise adoption of the upcoming Windows 7 operating system. Microsoft is hoping for a better reception from businesses than Vista received, despite the fact that Vista also had good enterprise features. But thanks to Microsoft's licensing plan, many of the enterprise features in Windows 7 aren't in versions that power users will have access to.
A few weeks ago, I attended a Microsoft-hosted workshop extolling
the benefits the forthcoming Windows 7 operating system would provide
for Microsoft's enterprise customers. With that audience focus in mind,
the workshop kicked off with a brief discussion of the five trends in
client computing as Microsoft currently sees them: consumerization,
carbon-neutrality, contingency, cost and compliance.
Taking the adoption of user-owned PCs for business use to an
extreme, Microsoft representatives described cases where users have
explicitly declined the use of corporate-owned PCs in favor of their
own higher powered setups. The Microsoft rep did couch this claim
somewhat, saying that due to the lousy economy, she expected to see
less of this extreme case in 2009, but that the trend toward
consumerization would continue.
In Microsoft's eyes, the kind of users exemplified in this
scenario-power users, frequently on the road or out of the office, with
powerful computers at their disposal-will be among the vanguard helping
drive adoption of Windows 7
within the enterprise. Microsoft envisions that these users will
experience all the great new features in Windows 7, and that they will
begin pressuring IT toward corporate adoption of the new OS.
Click here to take a look at Windows 7 beta.
Certainly, there are many features in Windows 7 that could be of
interest to enterprise IT implementers: BranchCache promises
client-based file caching for SMB and HTTP traffic for small offices;
DirectAccess offers clientless remote access and group policy-based
administration; application whitelisting is available via AppLocker;
and the improved Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and application
virtualization capabilities offer greater opportunity to centralize and
standardize the enterprise computing experience.
But let's face it, there were compelling enterprise-grade features
in Vista, too. BitLocker disk encryption, which has been enhanced with
easier setup and new USB storage device encryption in Windows 7, got
its start with Vista. And Vista delivered significant enhancements to
the way Group Policy works, leveraging a new template format that
created more management flexibility while also reducing bloat in the
SYSVOL when replicating across a domain.
And we all know what happened-or didn't happen-with Vista.
Microsoft's attitude seems to be that because users didn't cotton to
Vista, administrators didn't feel the need to upgrade without the users
on board. Pull in users to Windows 7 and corporate IT will surely
Microsoft looks beyond Vista with Windows 7.
The problem with this thinking is that the Windows 7 licensing
scheme won't allow these influence-peddling power users to actually
experience any of those features that could be of interest to
enterprise IT. BitLocker, AppLocker, BranchCache, DirectAccess and VDI are all part of the Windows 7 Enterprise build, which is
available only to Software Assurance customers (they are also in the
Ultimate build, which likely will be priced out of everyone's range as
it was with Vista). Astoundingly, none of these features are even a
part of the Business edition, which Microsoft positions for small
companies that don't have IT staff, but do apparently have a
Instead, the power users will be familiar with some of the glossier
features of Windows 7 that come with the Home Premium version they
likely will get with their next home computer: Aero Glass enhancements,
the new Taskbar and Start Menu, libraries, Home Group, and maybe the
Touch interface. And as numerous eWEEK readers have made quite clear in
their e-mail responses to my January initial look at the Windows 7
beta, this collection of features isn't driving their business toward
the new OS.
If Microsoft wants its power-using home audience to drive adoption
of Windows 7 into the enterprise, the company needs to give its
presumptive evangelists something to hang their hats on. I'd love to
see Microsoft plant a flag and make a pledge to protect all Windows 7
users' data in case of theft, bringing BitLocker (full disk) and
BitLocker ToGo (USB drive) encryption to each iteration of Windows 7.
Microsoft representatives at the workshop made it clear they view
BitLocker key management too complex for implementation without IT, so
the software maker will need to do something to remedy this problem.
Whether these enhancements are simplifications to the feature itself or
instead come in the form of creative and engaging how-to documentation
or videos, the inclusion of BitLocker among the operating system's
standard features could signal enough change to lead more IT thought
leaders to take a closer look at the next Windows.
Senior Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at email@example.com.