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Microsoft's Modern Marketing Puts the Crosshairs on IT Pros

IT pros likely are too busy addressing failed Windows patches to focus on the latest marketing push from Microsoft, but "modern desktop" and even "managed desktop" seem to be the latest things.

The modern label has gotten slapped on a lot of Microsoft products and services over the years. It popped up during the Windows 8 days when Microsoft switched from describing "Metro" apps and started calling them "modern" apps instead. Now they're called "Universal Windows Platform" apps with Windows 10.

What hasn't changed in recent years is the notion that Microsoft's cloud services will eventually supplant some IT pro activities. It's been a consistent message. For instance, Microsoft recently argued on behalf of its "modern management" approach with Windows 10, contending that traditional IT pro tasks of maintaining Windows images and testing every Windows patch have just been a waste of time.

This month, Microsoft floated other "modern" items to the same end, namely "modern workplace" and "modern desktop," which are kind of like goals to pursue for IT organizations. However, if organizations can't keep pace, then there's the coming Microsoft Managed Desktop service, where Microsoft takes over.  

Modern Desktop Explained
Microsoft explained its modern desktop concept in a 20-minute Ignite session, "What Is a Modern Desktop and Why Do You Need It?" by Nic Fillingham, a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft. Fillingham defined a modern desktop as Windows 10 plus Office 365 plus staying current on patches and upgrades. And that's it.

A modern desktop will enable a "modern workplace," which is the "north star" that was laid out in the Ignite keynote talk by CEO Satya Nadella, he added. Fillingham said that the PC today is the center of the modern workplace, and it'll remain in that role for some time, with tablets and phones serving as companion devices.

The modern desktop approach aims to "reduce the tension" between IT departments and the needs of end users in organizations, Fillingham contended. Windows 10 gets innovations every six months, whereas Windows 7 stopped getting new features five years ago, he noted.

He also contrasted the Office 365 ProPlus productivity suite, which follows the biannual channel update model, much like Windows 10, with perpetual-license Office products, which don't get new feature updates. If an organization gets the new Office 2019 product, arriving next month, it'll have less functionality than Office 365 ProPlus had seven months ago, Fillingham said.

The difference with the modern desktop approach is the ability to quickly update products via Microsoft's "cloud" datacenters. It brings security and productivity benefits, Fillingham contended.

"We think of the modern desktop as the most productive, most secure and having the lowest total cost of ownership," Fillingham said. He cited a Forrester total-cost-of-ownership study on the topic.

Organizations should want to get to the modern desktop, and Microsoft has provided certain tools to help. Fillingham offered the following slide, illustrating those tools:

[Click on image for larger view.] Tools for getting to "modern desktop." (Source: Sept. 24, 2018 Ignite session THR2221)

Another way to get to Windows 10 is through a new device. If a device is four years or older, then it's net positive to buy a new device, Fillingham contended. Older devices cost more because they need to be touched more by IT, he said. He noted that the end-of-service date for Windows 7 will be January 2020, while Office 2010 will lose support in October 2020.

Organizations can get migration assistance from Microsoft's FastTrack program for Microsoft 365 to get to the modern desktop. About 40,000 customers were served by the program in the last year, Fillingham said.

Microsoft Managed Desktop Explained
If IT pros can't keep pace with Microsoft's biannual updates to Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, then Microsoft has a new coming service called "Microsoft Managed Desktop" that aims to free them do more fruitful things.

Microsoft Managed Desktop was briefly described last week by Bill Karagounis, general manager at Microsoft. This week, Nathan Mercer, senior product marketing manager at Microsoft, further explained what it entails in an "Introduction to Microsoft Managed Desktop" Ignite session.

Mercer noted that Microsoft's customers are facing a huge array of complex issues in keeping devices secure and up to date, but the cloud is changing how devices get delivered, managed and updated.

"We are looking at supporting a new way of delivering the modern desktop backed by Microsoft 365," Mercer said regarding the emerging Microsoft Managed Desktop service.

The Microsoft Managed Desktop service is a new offering that puts together Microsoft 365 licensing and cloud-based device management, and it'll be "freeing up IT to concentrate on more interesting things," Mercer said. The Microsoft Managed Desktop service also represents "the best experience for end users," as devices stay updated and Microsoft backs the service.

Mercer defined the best experience as having a great device with Windows 10 plus Office 365 ProPlus. The Microsoft Surface is on Microsoft's "curated" list of devices to use with the Microsoft Managed Desktop service, but Microsoft plans to grow that list to include "third-party" devices, as well.

Windows Autopilot, Microsoft's program for OEM device makers that enables end users to provision new devices, is part of the Microsoft Managed Desktop service. The devices will "build themselves out of the cloud," Mercer said, and they'll be configured to use Windows Hello, Microsoft's biometric log-in capability. Baseline security will get applied. By default, OneDrive for Business gets installed on these devices. The devices get an "enterprise state roaming" capability, so if a device is lost, a new one can be easily provisioned.

Organizations using the Microsoft Managed Desktop service will get options to refresh their devices every two or three years. Under the program, Microsoft will manage all updates under the semiannual channel update model for Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus. Microsoft will use Windows Update for Business and Desktop Analytics behind the scenes to perform the device updating and management for organizations.

Microsoft Managed Desktop uses Windows Defender Antivirus and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection for security. Microsoft will deploy the applications from its cloud datacenters, and it'll use Microsoft Intune to do so.

Organizations get a service-level agreement and 24x7 tier-1 help desk support for Microsoft hardware and software with the service. The support can be delivered by phone or by chats using Microsoft's "get help app."

Mercer added that although the Microsoft Managed Desktop is a new service offering, it's built on technologies that Microsoft has been using for years.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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