More than a few tech prognosticators have likened Microsoft Windows to a dinosaur. It’s true that the tech environment has changed dramatically, but Windows won’t be wiped out (if you were thinking about the cost of your Microsoft software licensing and holding your breath, you can exhale!). Here are the challenges that Windows faces, and what Microsoft is doing to evolve.
What’s Changed in Microsoft Windows?
Looking at the world of operating systems, it might be easier to ask what hasn’t changed. While we expect technology to advance and platforms to come and go, at the very top of the food chain are names we’ve come to expect. For example, Google has become synonymous with search. Some search engines that hail from the Web 1.0 era are still out there—well, Yahoo is anyway—but Google’s number one spot is solid.
This is the same spot that Windows occupied in the OS world for years—except that the timeline is somewhat the opposite. Google emerged later than its early search competitors (everything from Alta Vista to Ask Jeeves). Windows, on the other hand, predates its competitors. In the case of mobile OS like Android and iOS, it’s older by decades. For a considerable span, Windows was more or less the only game in town. Apple had Mac OS, but little penetration in the hardware market. Eventually Linux came along, but it’s never caught fire with users outside the IT world.
The game changer here has really been the proliferation of non-PC technology. While Apple still has a relatively small share of the market for desktop and laptop computers, in succession the iPod, iPhone, and iPad brought the brand into many more homes (if not more businesses). Android has emerged as a strong contender for smartphones and tablets, too. This might not have caused such a big crack in Windows if the explosive rise of mobile devices had not been coupled with the cratering of PC sales. The advances made in mobile device technology—the devices grow more powerful and have more storage at the same time that they get smaller and lighter—mean that outside of the workplace, many people find they have little need for an actual computer.
At the same time, mobile devices cost less than PCs, and—this is a big one—simply come with a native OS. Purchasing the Windows software is a substantial chunk of the cost of your hardware, and now that consumers have other options, they’re taking them. (Ditching Windows XP for the much-despised Vista, and the learning curve for Windows 8, hasn’t helped Microsoft’s case.) While there is still a market for notebook and even desktop PCs, it’s not what it used to be. The Microsoft PCs that are driving that part of their business are the Surface and Surface Pro hybrid notebooks, a far cry from the giant gray boxes we all used to use. Their business-oriented products are headed in this direction, too, like the Surface Hub—basically a giant, wall-mounted tablet geared toward meeting usage.
What’s Next for Windows?
Last year, Microsoft announced that the latest version of Windows—Windows 10—would be the final version of the OS. Instead of launching new versions with the usual fanfare, Windows users are instead being transitioned to getting minor updates and changes as they are made. This also means that when there’s an entirely new version of the OS (which, given their usual timeline, will likely happen in the next 2 years), your machine will automatically install and run that OS. It’s somewhat similar to how Apple provides updates to desktops and laptops—except that the user has no control over it. Windows 10 installs your updates no matter what—you can defer them, but you can’t reject them. Previous versions of Windows offered you the option of manually controlling software updates. There have been concerns that when a major update (like a new OS) happens, users will be charged for the new OS whether they like it or not.
While this may (or may not) be a concern for home or personal use, if your business already uses Software Assurance, you’re already paying annually for Windows. From a business perspective, your main concern when it comes to Windows is still going to be Microsoft license management. While there are some advanced features in Windows 10 that require separate licensing (Windows Pro), that’s a one-time cost as opposed to ongoing Microsoft software licensing.
If you want to be sure that your organization is getting the most out of Windows, Office, and other Microsoft products, smart Microsoft license management is crucial. At Earth & Sky, we regularly find that our clients are overpaying by more than 30%. We can work with you as strategic partners to ensure that there’s a match between what your actual software needs are and what your Microsoft software licensing costs. Call us at 858-442-9591 or request a free consultation to learn more about how we can help determine the best licensing approach for your business.