Microsoft Rolls Out Per-User Windows Enterprise Licensing

The software giant wants to help enterprises more fully embrace BYOD with a new licensing scheme that counts users, not devices.

Windows Enterprise Licensing

Microsoft has quietly added a new wrinkle to its Windows 8.1 volume licensing program.

"Now you can license access to Windows Enterprise on a per-user basis through the new Windows Software Assurance per User and Windows VDA [Virtual Desktop Access] per User licensing options," reads Microsoft's Windows 8.1 licensing page for businesses. "These options put your users at the center of your Windows licensing solution, give you flexible options for how you deploy and access Windows across devices, and simplify Windows licensing and management."

Per-user software licensing schemes have been gaining momentum in recent years, particularly among mobile-device management (MDM) vendors.

Early last year, Sophos launched EndUser Protection, a combined endpoint-protection and MDM solution, offered on a per-user basis. Microsoft subscribes to the same tactic for its own cloud-based MDM product, called Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), which costs $7.50 per user per month for all three of its components (Azure AD Premium, Windows Intune and Azure Rights Management.

Documentation supplied by Microsoft asserts that the new licensing structure "frees your users to access Windows across all of their devices, regardless of who owns the device," enabling organizations to more fully support bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives. "You get the flexibility to deliver Windows Enterprise across devices through local install, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or Windows To Go," continued the company.

The change is a sign that Microsoft has grown more accommodating of rival platforms and diverse work styles as it pursues a "mobile-first" business strategy.

"Licensing by user frees your users to use or access Windows across all their devices, including iOS and Android devices," claimed the company. "With per-user licensing, it doesn't matter who owns the device or whether the device is on or off premises."

Per-user Windows licenses can also help streamline Windows administration, according to Microsoft. "You also gain the simplicity of counting users instead of counting all of their devices—supporting bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scenarios without the need to track every device and license."

The new software-licensing model covers local installs of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 (Pro or Enterprise) on a PC or Windows tablet under 10.1 inches. It also provides VDI or Windows to Go access to any device. Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) customers can extend their subscriptions to encompass all of each user's devices.

In other Windows news, Microsoft halted retail sales of Windows 8 on Oct. 31, just two years after Microsoft launched the OS. (Windows 8.1 remains available.) The deadline also marked the end of PCs bundled with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium or Ultimate.

Business buyers can breathe a sigh of relief. According to the Windows lifecycle fact sheet, Microsoft has yet to determine when to quit offering Windows 7 Pro as a preinstalled option on PCs. Sales of stand-alone retail copies of Windows 7 Pro officially ended a year ago, on Oct. 31, 2013.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...