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Windows 10 Arrives but Some Business Capabilities Are Lagging

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Organizations thinking about deploying the Windows 10 operating system will have to plow through a lot of fine print, as usual, but some business features just aren't available yet.

Microsoft's Windows 10 desktop OS product was released today, which includes the ability to create an ISO or install the OS using Microsoft's media creation tool. Consumers also can use Laplink's free PCmover Express tool for PC upgrades. This Windows 10 release is a so-called "rolling release," so even some who signed up to get the free update (mostly consumers) will still have to wait weeks to get it. However, MSDN subscribers can get the bits for various Windows 10 editions today.

The Windows 10 Internet of Things Core OS for Raspberry P2 and MinnowBoard MAX boards can be downloaded here.

Volume licensing purchasers will be able to get the Enterprise edition bits on August 1, Microsoft announced today. In the meantime, there's also a 90-day trial of the Windows 10 Enterprise edition available at this page.

Microsoft plans to release its Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit today, according to a report by journalist Mary Jo Foley, citing Microsoft as the source, although the kit wasn't available at press time. She also indicated there will be an "early August" planned release for the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013 Update 1 release (it's currently available just as a preview).

Another means of deploying Windows 10 is System Center Configuration Manager. Microsoft's announcement today indicated that it's possible to use System Center 2012 and System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager versions running the latest service packs to deploy and manage Windows 10 desktops today. Microsoft's next Configuration Manager product, which will have mobile device management capabilities, is planned for release in Q4 this year. It's currently at the "tech preview 2" stage.  

The Windows 10 Mobile edition was not released today. Possibly, it may be available in the "November timeframe" of this year, according to an interview with Anthony Doherty of Microsoft South Africa, as conducted by iafrica.com.

Windows 10 for Organizations
IT pros might be looking for their home copy of Windows 10 right now, rather than thinking about upgrading the corporate network with the new OS. A recent survey conducted by Spiceworks found that most IT pros were expecting to complete Windows 10 upgrades in their organizations over a two-year span.

Today's release of Windows 10 is just stage one. Microsoft has also talked about a coming Windows 10 release this fall that likely will add more business capabilities to the OS. IT pros wondering if Windows 10 is "enterprise worthy" right now may want to check out Microsoft MVP Greg Shield's views here, but it's a complex question.

It's a new world with Windows 10 delivered "as a service." It's also the same old world for IT pros where they have to figure out if the released software actually supports the features they've been hearing about at Microsoft's various showcase events. There are also budgetary, licensing, software compatibility and hardware considerations that may slow IT pros down.

On the hardware front, Microsoft has made it somewhat simple. Machines that were capable of running Windows 8 will be able to run Windows 10, according to statements by Microsoft officials. The minimum required hardware specs for Windows 10 are little changed from Windows 7 days. However, if an organization wants to use certain Windows 10 features, there are some hardware specs to note. For instance, Windows Hello, which is Microsoft's biometric replacement for passwords, requires a special infrared camera for facial recognition or a fingerprint reader device that supports the Windows Biometric Framework.

A lot of organizations may lack touch screens for Windows 10 machines. However, that issue may not be a consideration this time as Microsoft has brought back the desktop-friendly Start button with Windows 10, which also can run desktop and "modern" apps side by side.

Windows 10 comes with "core experiences" that are common to all editions. These core experiences are familiar features, such as the Cortana personal assistant, the Continuum interface switcher between tablet and PC modes, and even the Windows Hello security feature. Windows 10 also comes with "business experiences," which most likely will be of interest to organizations.

IT pros wondering if they can run Windows 10 now in their organizations should study the following table, which shows hardware dependencies and even some of the licensing requirements. For instance, the ill-described Credential Guard security feature in Windows 10, which uses Hyper-V to store credentials such as NTLM hashes and Kerberos tickets, will require the use of Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) 2.3.1 or greater, along with other hardware dependencies. Device Guard is another virtualization-enabled security technology but it's designed to ward off malware attacks. Device Guard has the same laundry list of hardware requirements as Credential Guard.

Home Pro Enterprise Requirements
Device encryption Device encryption Device encryption InstantGo (formerly known as "Connected Standby") or a device that passes the "Device Encryption Requirements Test"
Sideloading business apps Sideloading business apps Sideloading business apps  
Mobile device management Mobile device management Mobile device management "Coming later" for the Home edition; possible licensing dependencies on the Enterprise Mobility Suite
"Easy" upgrade to Education edition "Easy" upgrade to Enterprise edition  
Microsoft Passport Microsoft Passport Microsoft Passport  
Windows Update Windows Update Windows Update  
Domain join Domain join  
Group Policy management Group Policy management  
BitLocker BitLocker Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 or greater
Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer  
Assigned Access 8.1 Assigned Access 8.1 InstantGo (formerly known as "Connected Standby") or device that passes the device encryption Windows Hardware Certification Kit (HCK) test
Remote Desktop Remote Desktop  
Client Hyper-V Client Hyper-V  
Ability to join Azure Active Directory with single sign-on to cloud-hosted apps Ability to join Azure Active Directory with single sign-on to cloud-hosted apps Azure Active Directory license
Windows Store for Organizations Windows Store for Organizations "Coming later"
  Enterprise Data Protection Enterprise Data Protection "Coming later"; possible licensing dependencies for Azure Active Directory and the Azure Rights Management Service
Windows Update for Business Windows Update for Business  
Current Branch for Business Current Branch for Business  
Long-Term Servicing Branch  
Direct Access  
Windows To Go Creator  
AppLocker  
BranchCache  
Start Screen control via Group Policy  
Granular UX control  
Credential Guard Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) 2.3.1 or greater; Virtualization Extensions such as Intel VT-X, AMD-V and SLAT must be enabled; x64 version of Windows; IOMMU, such as Intel VT-d, AMD-Vi; TPM 2.0; BIOS lockdown
Device Guard Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) 2.3.1 or greater; Virtualization Extensions such as Intel VT-X, AMD-V and SLAT must be enabled; x64 version of Windows; IOMMU, such as Intel VT-d, AMD-Vi; TPM 2.0; BIOS lockdown

Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise edition features for organizations, with notes about potential hardware and licensing dependencies.Note that the Education edition of Windows 10 isn't listed here because it's essentially the same as the Enterprise edition. Source: Microsoft "Business Experiences" editions comparison page.

Features Not Available
Some Windows 10 features Microsoft has talked about this year aren't available with this July 29 launch (see table). The missing features sometimes depend on other Microsoft products in this new "Windows 10 as a service" world. For instance, Mobile device management in Windows 10, which is heavily dependent on Microsoft Intune developments, isn't yet available.

The integrated Windows Store for organizations, which will allow things like the sideloading of line-of-business apps for distribution to mobile end users, isn't available yet. This week, Microsoft indicated that it just now giving developers the tools to submit Universal Windows Platform apps to the Windows 10 Store.

Enterprise Data Protection, which is a Microsoft code word for a technology that helps prevent data leakages when used with the Azure Rights Management Service, isn't available with this release of Windows 10. This is a technology that restricts end users from forwarding documents to unauthorized users. It will be available "later this year" according to Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group.

Organization opting for the long-term servicing branch of Windows 10 won't get the new Edge Web browser. They'll have Internet Explorer 11 instead. Microsoft has previously described its Windows 10 servicing branch concepts, but the information has dribbled out in a scattered fashion. The long-term servicing branch is the traditional model and the only one that permits update deferrals over the product's lifetime support period (10 years). Organizations can also opt for a "current branch for business" update model that permits update deferrals for eight months. The "current branch" model is like the Windows Update model, where updates stream to the desktop.

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