MS VP Brad Anderson dropped a blog post yesterday, June 7, 2018. It’s entitled “Simplifying IT with the latest updates from Windows Autopilot.” It explains that Microsoft’s goal “is to simplify deployment of new Windows 10 devices by eliminating the cost and complexity associated with creating, maintaining and loading custom images.” Simply put, the Autopilot program lets companies and organizations order new PCs (and other devices that run Windows), establish configurations and policies in advance, and then ship those devices directly to their intended users. All users need to do is turn them on, answer a few prompts, and they’re off and running within (or beneath) the existing IT umbrella. Anderson sums this up by saying “Not only does Windows Autopilot significantly reduce the cost of deploying Windows 10 devices but also delivers an experience that’s magical for users and zero-touch for IT” (emphasis mine).
Setup controls in Intune to drive initial start-up/setup behavior for Autopilot configured Win10 deployments.
[Source: MS Video. Click image for full-sized view.]
Who’s Got the Pickle?
The latest version of Autopilot includes two frankly amazing features. The first is called “self-deploying mode.” Essentially, it does away with the usual OOBE queries that all users face when a new version of Windows 10 shows up on their desktops. These require them to respond to queries about Region, Language, Keyboard layout, and to enter login credentials. Users can simply turn their machines on and most of this already taken care of for them (they must still login). In addition, this means that Autopilot can also configure devices for use in locked down kiosks, digital signage applications, shared productivity devices, and more. Powering on the device is the only user action required. The second cool feature is called Windows Autopilot reset. When a device is to be repurposed for a new user, admins can remotely reset and redeploy it remotely. No hands-on physical access required. They need only click a button in Intune, and it does the rest. Great stuff!
Flying on Autopilot
Windows Autopilot, together with Intune, opens the doors to IT for a whole new way of doing business, and a whole new infrastructure for end user device deployment, maintenance, and management. Given what MS has made available to OEMs for years when it comes to customizing and deploying images on the factory floor, I see this as a logical and welcome extension of this kind of capability onto the business scene. In fact, I have to believe this will open up huge opportunities for companies ranging from small mom-n-pop computer shops all the way to the giants of the “managed computing solutions” business (like IBM, HP and Dell in the USA, and companies like ATOS and CAP Gemini in Europe) to help companies and organizations of all scales with ordering, configuring, deploying and managing their workers’ computing devices.
I’m reasonably convinced that Autopilot and Intune are going to reshape the way that routine IT for end-user computing gets done from stem to stern. I see nothing less than a complete shakeup of the traditional way of ordering hardware, adding applications, applying policies and customization, then shipping machines to end users to something that starts with a configuration/set-up specification sent from buyer to seller (or maker) that results in direct shipment of the resulting device to its intended user. Upon firing that device up, users with the necessary credentials will be ready to get to work immediately, with little or no muss or fuss.
All I say is that I hope this vision is completely consonant with the reality that is about to emerge based on Autopilot and Intune. In the meantime, take a look at this Windows Autopilot video from Microsoft Mechanics (YouTube, running time 7:50). Great stuff!
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.