One of the ways Microsoft grew itself into a $US87 billion company is by making people pay to use Windows on each device they used.
Today, Microsoft quietly announced a new service that radically changes that.
With the geeky sounding name of Microsoft Azure RemoteApp, this app is not a dramatic new technology.
In fact, it’s a pretty hum-drum tech that’s been available for years. It allows business customers to stream any of their Windows apps to any device (Android, iOS, Mac, Windows) over the cloud.
The change is how Microsoft will sell it. Microsoft is charging “per user” not “per device.”
To unpack that: the same employee can use this app to access Windows apps on an iPad at home and on their Windows PC and Microsoft won’t charge extra for that. In the past, Microsoft charged separately for both.
Microsoft is also using “pay as you go” pricing with Azure RemoteApp. Companies pay a set fee for up to 40 hours a month, then additional fees for each hour, up to a maximum of $US23 per user per month. This is how a lot of cloud products and consumer services work, but it’s brand new for Windows.
Back in the old days, if you wanted to use a Windows app, like Office, you had to pay a set fee for Windows for every PC you bought.
When new app streaming technologies were developed, Windows no longer had to be loaded onto the actual device. So Microsoft set up some new pricing plans to protect its Windows revenue. Companies were still required to pay Microsoft for a Windows licence for every device that used Windows apps. This made it pretty expensive for some companies to stream Windows apps, and opened the door to cloud-based operating system competitors like Google Chrome.
As Microsoft sells more cloud services like this app, it makes money even if the device isn’t Windows. In fact, the more non-Windows devices using Microsoft’s cloud software, the better.
Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella understands this. So he’s beginning to unwind the licensing traps that have prevented enterprise customers from using the cloud, even Microsoft’s cloud.
This app isn’t the first one to experiment with per-user licensing. That change happened quietly in October, when for the first time ever, Microsoft changed some of its other enterprise licenses to allow Windows to be streamed by the same user to unlimited devices.
There are still plenty of licensing complications that make buying Microsoft’s software expensive. But this is a solid step towards turning Windows into a cloud service. And after that, who knows?