Microsoft Windows 10 Servicing Changes, Windows Virtual Desktop (The beginning of the end of locally installed Windows?)

At this point this blog should probably be called “Microsoft servicing. When it changes I’ll write a new blog.”

So it’s official, Microsoft has changed the servicing model for Windows 10 yet again. This time the changes are quite large, including a “tick-tock” schedule for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education versions. The full details can be read here:

There are some important things to note from the document above. First of all, the support schedule for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education has changed to 30 months for the September Update. “Tick-tock” comes into place because the alternate update (the March update) will still have 18 months of support.

Changing the support time for Windows to 30 months is great news for those of us who are unable to move to a new version of Windows 10 for several months because of software needing to be certified for the new OS. For example we have a piece of software that is installed on every computer in the environment. The time between Windows 10 release and when the software is certified to use in the OS can be as long as 6 months. Because of this we were facing only 12 months of use on a specific Windows 10 version before we would need to upgrade it again. If you add in the time to deploy to our 16,000 computers, upgrades would be happening constantly. This was not going to be a great solution for our users, and the amount of support IT was going to have to provide for this model was going to increase greatly.

Microsoft listened to us as corporate administrators. Let me say that again. We talked, and Microsoft listened to us. Microsoft clearly wanted to be able to move Windows 10 versions out of support quickly so they could move development time to newer versions. They also clearly didn’t want a repeat of Windows 7 where they will be providing updates until 2020 for software that was originally released in 2009. However we made enough noise, and Servicing was changed!

With 30 months of support for the September Windows 10 version, even if the certification of our software takes 6 months, we still should have 24 months of support for each version of Windows 10! The real question is who is going to be installing the Enterprise or Education March versions? I would wager there won’t be many organizations.

Windows 7 Extended Security Updates

The second announcement in the above article is about the extension of servicing for Windows 7. Microsoft is calling it Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU). If you need to keep computers on Windows 7 for some reason past 2020 (even though you’ve known about Windows 7 retirement for several years at this point) Microsoft will let you purchase extra support until 2023. But it’s going to cost you. Microsoft isn’t saying how much at this point, but it is saying that you can expect the cost to go up each time you renew the support (up to January of 2023).

Windows Virtual Desktop

At Microsoft Ignite this week Microsoft has introduced something else that is desktop related. It’s called Windows Virtual Desktop. To read the announcement check out the website below:

Windows Virtual Desktop is much what it sounds like. It’s a full blown Windows 7 or 10 desktop that exists in Azure. You connect through the internet to your Virtual Desktop which will come pre-loaded with Office 365 applications. They were very clear to mention that there is a browser plug in that can be installed so that you can connect to your virtual desktop right through your web browser. The demos were also quick to note that connection speeds were great, the demos were run from Orlando, FL and were using an Azure data center in the Seattle area. No word on if the issue with Azure a couple of weeks ago would have affected your WVD in a negative way (I bet it would have).

Another thing that is important to note about the WVD is that you can create Windows 7 desktops. When you do this, they will automatically have the Extended Security Updates, which means this might be a good way to get updates until 2023 for users that need it.

It’s hard to say how much of an impact WVD’s will have. Certainly I can run a VMware virtual machine in a web browser if that is something that I would want to do, but of course that would require a separate license of both Windows and Office. If Microsoft can come in at a cheaper price than someone would be paying otherwise, it is definitely something to look at.

Here’s another thing to think about; Is this our first glimpse at what our security team has been worrying about for some time now? Is this the beginning of the end of a legacy Windows operating system running on a local computer? Is this the beginning of a future “desktop” where all you need to connect to it is a web browser? This presents a lot of benefits for those of us who are managing computers, it also adds a lot of challenges.