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MS Announces Modern Desktop Services

On September 6, 2018, MS announced the release of services to support what they call the modern desktop. In a Microsoft 365 blog post on that topic, Microsoft Corporate VP for Windows and Office Marketing Jared Sparato asserts that this means ways for IT to save time and money on “the process of creating standard images, deploying devices, testing updates, and providing end user support.” To that end, he suggests that “a modern desktop is powered by Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, and is always up to date with insights and security powered by the cloud” (Making IT simpler with a modern workplace, cited in the preceding blog post).

Announcements Are Good, But What’s on Offer?

Today’s announcements are based around three elements, to help address the issues involved in dealing with creating, managing, deploying and supporting Windows images. Those elements are:

Desktop Analytics: a new cloud-based service integrated with ConfigMgr. It comes from from Microsoft FastTrack, and is designed to inventory applications running in an organization,  and to access their compatibility with the latest feature updates for Windows 10 and Office 365 Pro Plus. It can create pilot groups that represent the complete collection of applications and drivers across a minimal set of devices. Desktop Analytics is intended to offer insight and intelligences to help organizations assess the update readiness of their Windows and Office clients. Given that information, they can optimize pilot and production deployments using ConfigMgr. Because MS offers data from its entire population of devices this, when combined with local intelligence, takes the guesswork out of testing to that organizations can focus on key blockers.

Desktop App Assure: Also from Microsoft FastTrack, this new service helps organizations address any application compatibility issues in the wake of a Windows 10 or Office 365 ProPlus feature update. It requires filing a ticket through FastTrack, after which a Microsoft engineer will follow up to work with program members until, as Spareto puts it “the issue is resolved.” He goes on further to claim this: “In short, Desktop App Assure operationalizes our Windows 10 and Office 365 Pro Plus compatibility promise: We’ve got your back on app compatibility and are committed to removing it entirely as a blocker” (emphasis mine).

Servicing and Support Flexibility: In response to ongoing and vocal feedback from organizations, enterprises, and the computer trade press (including yours truly), MS is changing the support window for Windows 10 feature upgrades. Going forward, Enterprise and Education (volume licensed) users will get 30 months of support for each September (H2 in the latest nomenclature) release. This change comes in response to input from business and education users that 18 months is too rapid a cadence for feature upgrades to come and go for such organizations to keep up. Here’s what the new update regime looks like going forward, as of this month (September 2018):


Enterprise and Education get 30 months of support for H2 releases in any given calendar year.
[Click image for full-sized view. Source: Microsoft.]

Digesting This News

This is actually pretty good news all the way around. Microsoft is backing up its commitment to Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus with help in establishing application compatibility for organizations who might otherwise resist migration. It’s also sharing its intelligence and telemetry data on all the countless number of applications and devices it sees across the entire population of Windows users. Best of all, MS has listened to the feedback that the 18-month cadence was too short, and has extended its support for one of the two annual feature updates to 30 months (2.5 years) instead. This falls inside the envelope for most of the organizations polled in recent surveys on Win10 Migration (such as Jeremy Moskowitz’s 2018 survey for PolicyPak).

I’m incredibly jazzed by this announcement, and am fascinated to see how the marketplace will take it up. It’s definitely a move in the right direction for Microsoft on numerous fronts, not least for the extension of support to 30 months for September releases. Good 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.

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