Windows 10 Pro is a dead end for the enterprise, Gartner says

Recent changes by Microsoft to the Windows 10 support schedule underline why Windows 10 Pro is an ill fit for most companies.

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Windows 10 Pro is a dead end for enterprises, a prominent Gartner analyst has argued.

"[We] predict that Microsoft will continue positioning Windows [10] Pro as a release that is not appropriate for enterprises by reducing ... support and limiting access to enterprise management features," Stephen Kleynhans, a research vice president at Gartner and one of the research firm's resident Windows experts, said in a report he co-authored.

Microsoft's Windows 10 Pro occupies the middle ground between the consumer-grade Home and the corporate-level Enterprise in features, functionality and price. Because Enterprise versions of Windows have never been available to computer makers, Pro - sometimes, as in Windows 7, tagged Professional instead - has been the most popular pre-installed OS on new business PCs. (Corporations typically re-image new personal computers with Enterprise upon receipt of the devices.)

But although Pro or Professional has a long history in business settings, Microsoft has made numerous decisions in its Windows 10 migration campaign to separate Pro and Enterprise even more, pushing them apart. In Kleynhans' view, the gap has become unbridgeable.

The last straw was Microsoft's on-the-fly changes to Windows 10 support.

Last year, the Redmond, Wash. developer announced a six-month support extension for Windows 10 1511, the November 2015 feature upgrade, "to help some early enterprise adopters that are still finishing their transition to Windows as a service." In February, Microsoft added versions 1609, 1703 and 1709 - released in mid-2016, and in April and October of 2017, respectively - to the extended support list, giving each 24 months of support, not the usual 18.

"Some customers have requested an extension to the standard 18 months of support for Windows 10 releases," a Microsoft executive said at the time.

There was a catch: Only Windows 10 Enterprise (and Windows 10 Education, a similar version for public and private school districts and universities) qualified for the extra six months of support. Users running Windows 10 Pro were still required to upgrade to a successor SKU (stock-keeping unit) within 18 months to continue receiving security patches and other bug fixes.

Windows 10 Enterprise 1709, for example, and its free "supplemental servicing," will exhaust support in October 2019. But Windows 10 Pro 1709 runs out of support on April 9, 2019.

"The one thing that really surprised me about the added support," said Kleynhans in an interview, "was the fact that it didn't apply to Pro. I think that this telegraphed the fact that, for businesses, Pro is being dead-ended."

Even though the six-month support extension ended with the 1803 feature upgrade, the one that began reaching some users late last month, in the report Kleynhans co-wrote with Gartner colleague Michael Silver, the duo made clear that they believe Pro is viewed by Microsoft as a second-class citizen.

"Customers currently using Windows 10 Pro should continue to monitor Microsoft's life cycle announcements because they will eventually need to budget for Windows [10] Enterprise as Windows [10] Pro becomes more 'pro-sumer' and small-business oriented," they wrote in a six-item list of recommendations.

Another component of Microsoft's current Windows 10 support strategy, something the company has labeled "paid supplemental servicing," was also out of bounds for those running Windows 10 Pro. The extra support, which Microsoft will sell at an undisclosed price, is available only to Enterprise and Education customers.

Paid supplemental servicing adds 12 months to the 18 months provided free of charge.

"The extensions and paid support option only apply to the Enterprise and Education SKUs," Kleynhans and Silver said in their report, "Plan and Budget for Short Windows and Office Support Cycles Based on Microsoft's February 2018 Announcements," which was published by Gartner last month. "Customers using Windows 10 Pro will still see support end after 18 months. In this way, Microsoft is further reinforcing that it expects enterprise customers to move to the Enterprise edition of Windows 10."

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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