Lenovo announced this week that it will start supporting Windows AutoPilot as the first Microsoft OEM Partner to do so. This excerpt from that post states the benefits:
For the first time, IT Administrators will have the option to leverage Lenovo’s direct integration with Windows Autopilot’s capability to register Lenovo PC’s to their Azure Active Directory tenant before they receive the PCs.
At the recent Microsoft Technical Summit in Amsterdam, I had an opportunity to attend a breakout session entitled Modernizing Windows 10 Deployment with Windows AutoPilot. It came from Michael Niehaus, Microsoft’s Principal Program Manager, Windows & Devices Group, modern deployment team (LinkedIn, Twitter). You can read more about that session in my earlier travelogue post from Day 2 of that conference: https://win10.guru/microsoft-tech-summit-day-two/
Michael Niehaus asserted then what Lenovo has now confirmed — namely, that it would be the first OEM partner to support AutoPilot fully . At this moment we are still talking about testing. Soon, Lenovo’s selected early adopter customers can order new devices under this program. Those devices will be shipped directly to their users, who will then do “self-deployment” simply by signing in to their devices in OOBE using Azure AD credentials. Full availability for all of Lenovo’s corporate customers will occur “in the coming months,” as the announcement indicates.
The next OEM partner to follow suit will be HP. It has indicated it will start supporting AutoPilot in the second quarter of 2018 (which now means, sometime before the end of June). Dell, Panasonic, Fujitsu and Toshiba have enunciated their plans to begin support for AutoPilot during the second half of 2018 (which means sometime between July 1 and December 31, 2018).
Personally, I am thrilled about this news. In my opinion, the future of IT in corporate environments will be built around a new “Holy Trinity”: Azure AD, Microsoft 365 and Windows AutoPilot. Current needs for traditional on-premises domain controllers and for IT to set up user devices manually will gradually fade, as more and more of these things move into the cloud. If we think about how that work gets done today, then compare it with this future scenario, this change confers clear benefits. Here’s the emerging new way of doing such business: (1) IT orders a new laptop from the factory. (2) The factory sends the new laptop directly to user John Doe at his home address. (3) Mr. Doe unpacks it, turns it on, enters his credentials, and that’s it. After that minimal and dead simple activity, the new laptop is set up, just as IT has configured it in Intune. Furthermore, the user and his device are enrolled in Azure AD without IT ever seeing that device.
When discussing this scenario, including AutoPilot and its supporting infrastructure, some IT professionals worry that this could lead to reduced needs for IT support staff in the future. To some extent, I agree with this analysis. If an enterprise moves all the way over to Microsoft 365 deployed using AutoPilot, the actual number of IT support staff needed will be somewhat smaller, compared to a more traditional model. But the question then becomes: “Should we delay the modernization of corporate IT to save jobs?” The answer depends on who you ask: IT decision-makers or CTOs usually say “No”, whereas some IT support staff say “Yes!” But history says that attempts to delay the inevitable usually make the reckoning more harsh, when it finally comes, as it must.
All in all, having now tested Intune and AutoPilot deployment at a small scale myself, I keep asking: “How did we manage before without this?” At the moment, I keenly await the news that Lenovo has made AutoPilot generally available. Ditto for news that HP and Dell start full support as well. In fact, Microsoft’s own Surface devices already support WIndows AutoPilot. When these three Microsoft OEM partners follow suit, a majority of corporate customers will have a good chance to utilize it fully.
Though there will be fallout for the IT workforce, I welcome this change anyway. You should, too.
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.