Microsoft keeps talking about something called “Windows as a Service” but the company hasn’t fully explained what they mean by that term yet.
On Monday, CEO Satya Nadella offered a hint as to what “Windows as a Service” will become.
Speaking onstage to kick off Microsoft Ignite in Chicago, Microsoft’s conference for IT professionals happening this week, Nadella said that the company is making a “profound” change in how it approaches Windows.
Windows 10 is not just a new version of the operating system, but “a new generation” of Windows, something called “Windows as a Service,” he said (something he’s said a few times before).
He then announced a new feature for Windows called “Windows Update for Business.” Windows Update is that bit of software that tells you when a software patch for Windows is available, downloads it, and then asks you to reboot your computer.
Windows Update is also how Microsoft will automatically update every eligible Windows 7 and Windows 8 consumer PC to Windows 10 for free.
It’s not the same for businesses. First of all, businesses aren’t included in the free Windows 10 upgrade offer. Most of them can get Windows 10 for “free” anyway, because they pay for a thing called Software Assurance with their enterprise contracts. Software Assurance has always given them the option to upgrade to the latest version of Windows (or to downgrade to older versions. This is how so many companies kept Windows XP alive in their companies for so long).
But many companies don’t let Microsoft send such upgrades (or downgrades) to them automatically, or to send patches and new software automatically. They first need to test the software to make sure it won’t tank their other important business software.
Microsoft clearly wants businesses to turn it on and let Microsoft automatically send fixes and software to Windows to work PCs. This is also, presumably, how Microsoft will push out its new productivity apps to get people to try them.
Nadella said the Windows Update for Business will “fundamentally change how we deliver compatibility, security, productivity” for business users.
We need to point out that the “as a service” term has a very specific meaning in the world of IT: it means an app delivered over the cloud as a service, rather than something that’s only installed on a PC.
Microsoft isn’t yet announcing that Windows 10 will become a cloud service. And it has yet to spell out the details on Windows Update for Business.
But, as we previously reported, sources close to the company are telling us that Microsoft is planning on radically changing how it delivers Windows to businesses and how it charges for it. This is one of its big cash-cow businesses. And it looks like Windows Update for Business could be at the center of this change.