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Microsoft dangles carrot at SMEs, eases Windows 8 Enterprise licensing

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Microsoft is loosening restrictions for business customers who want the full-fat edition of Windows – the Enterprise Edition.

Redmond is making it easier and less expensive for organisations with more than five PCs to get Enterprise Edition under a licensing change from March 1.

Windows Enterprise Edition is to be made available as a product in its own right that can be obtained via a new, Windows Enterprise Upgrade License.

Until now, you’d only been able to get Windows Enterprise Edition if you had Windows Pro on a PC and owned Software Assurance (SA) with your license.

SA is a Microsoft agreement whereby customers pay to obtain the rights to future upgrades for a given product within the lifetime of their contract. SAs start at three years.

That means organisations whose IT budget is only big enough to pay for Windows Pro and SA could get their hands on Enterprise Edition.

Further, Enterprise Edition could not be obtained as a product from Microsoft, or the channel, or OEMs. Windows Pro and SA were the entry requirements.

Enterprise Edition is the high end of Microsoft’s Windows versions.

Special features include enhanced device, software and network security, virtualization, and - with Windows 8 – easier application deployment.

The Windows Enterprise Upgrade License is only available to customers on the Open, Select and Select Plus license agreements. Open is for customers with five or more PCs, while Select and Select Plus are for those with more than 250.

In a canned statement, Microsoft said it had heard from customers of all sizes on the use of Windows Enterprise and that it is responding to feedback.

“Additionally, some customers per international policy are unable to enter annuity agreements. This change expands the availability of the Enterprsie Edition,” said a Redmond spokesperson.

Enterprise Editions of Windows have been available for years; part of Microsoft’s business model, meanwhile, has been to push customers towards what it considers “premium” editions of Windows to make more money. Enterprise Edition is one such premium edition.

Why change things now? To promote greater business uptake of Windows 8.

Loosening the rules on Enterprise Edition will, Microsoft hopes, serve an act of self-fulfillment. Microsoft will lose money in the short term, but stands to make market share gains that it can make money from in the future.

Nearly 18 months after Windows 8 first became available the operating system – Windows 8 and 8.1 – have barely notched up 10 per cent market share.

Sales of Windows 8 are lagging behind Windows 7. One reason has been the sluggish PC market and the failure of the Metro interface.

As far as businesses are concerned, Windows 8 is too risky and too new; where they have been moving off of Window XP or Vista, they’ve been going to Windows 7. Windows 7 now has about 47 per cent of the desktop market, according to NetCraft.

Microsoft is dangling a delicious list of chunky security and device capabilities in front of those who'd normally not been able to obtain them in the hope that people will bite and become Windows 8 business users.

More specifically, in that list of Windows 8 Enterprise Edition features is a capability called side-loading. This lets you directly install apps on the Windows 8 device when it’s joined to a managed domain.

Windows 8 had been built to target consumers and copied Apple in that it only accepted apps downloaded from the company – i.e. Microsoft’s Windows Store.

But this is useless for businesses who will often have their own, custom-built apps. They don't, or can't, jump through the hoops of uploading to the Windows Store for subsequent download.

By making side loading more widely available, Microsoft will hope it can remove a significant hurdle in the way of many who want to install Windows 8. ®

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