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Microsoft Partners: ‘Excited’ For Windows 365, ‘Scared’ For Windows 11

‘From a technical standpoint, I’m always excited about new toys, so I can’t wait,’ David Cox, director of operations for New Haven, Ind.-based Microsoft partner G6 Communications, tells CRN in an interview. ‘From the business side, I’m scared as hell. Every time you shift an operating system or a platform or anything like that, the user adoption is generally pretty slow.’

Microsoft partners tell CRN that they are “excited” for some of the promises around the tech giant’s Windows 365 Cloud PCs, deemed a “new category” of PC by CEO Satya Nadella for bringing “the full Windows experience from the Microsoft cloud to a personal or corporate device.”

But past experience from switching operating systems has them more cautious about the upcoming Windows 11 operating system.

“From a technical standpoint, I’m always excited about new toys, so I can’t wait,” David Cox, director of operations for New Haven, Ind.-based Microsoft partner G6 Communications, told CRN in an interview. “From the business side, I’m scared as hell. Every time you shift an operating system or a platform or anything like that, the user adoption is generally pretty slow.”

Cox said he wants the migration from Windows 10 to Windows 11 to more closely resemble the transition from 7 to 10, which “was “pretty seamless,” he said. Even still, he remembers his company handling plenty of customer calls over applications that worked in 7 and experienced technical difficulties following the migration to 10.

[RELATED: Microsoft’s 5 Biggest Windows 11 Updates]

Windows 11 will be generally available later this year as a free update for compatible Windows 10 PCs.

What Cox doesn’t want is a transition that looks like the migration of XP to Vista, “which was a really big problem for a lot of people,” he said.

The cloud PCs should appeal to clients still making the transition to remote working even after 18 months of the global pandemic, Cox said. Companies are still realizing the increase in productivity when employees no longer have to commute to the office, even for some days of the week.

“It’s a conversation with every client I have,” Cox said. “Anything that can ease that pain is going to be a big benefit to me. And the operating system that gets me there doesn’t matter as much as being able to get there.”

Zac Paulson, CEO of TrueIT — a Fargo, N.D.-based Microsoft partner, member of CRN’s 2021 MSP 500 and No. 496 on CRN’s 2021 Solution Provider 500 list — told CRN, “I would be lying if I said I was excited about Windows 11.”

While Windows 11’s design and user interface look good, confusion over which hardware on the market will work with Windows 11 has Paulson worried. “The last thing we want is hardware that doesn’t run the new OS,” he said.

Earlier this month, Microsoft published guidance around Windows 11 deployment. The company recommended five steps: creating a deployment plan, defining readiness criteria, evaluating infrastructure and tools, determining application readiness and defining your servicing strategy.

“Since Windows 11 is built on the same foundation as Windows 10, you can use the same deployment capabilities, scenarios, and tools—as well as the same basic deployment strategy that you use today for Windows 10,” according to the guidance.

Microsoft will roll out analysis tools to evaluate devices against Windows 11 hardware requirements.

“Most devices purchased in the last 18-24 months will be compatible with Windows 11,” according to the guidance.

In June, Microsoft updated its documentation around the minimum Trusted Platform Module (TPM) security requirements for installing Windows 11, saying that PCs will be required to have a TPM 2.0 chip in order to run the operating system. In the updated documentation, Microsoft has removed the reference to a “hard floor” for Windows 11 that would’ve allowed PCs with TPM 1.2 to still install the new OS.

Windows 365, meanwhile, has Paulson interested in its potential security and ethical benefits by allowing employees to use personal devices for work purposes through a virtual desktop that follows security parameters. Microsoft said in a blog post at the time of the Windows 11 announcement that, “With Windows 11, we are focused on increasing security, improving reliability, and ensuring compatibility. This is what drives our decisions.”

“There’s a huge security risk to bring your own device, and then there’s an ethic barrier on whether you can lock that device down,” Paulson said. “If I own the device personally, and my company says we’re going to lock you out of installing personal software, that’s not super fair. That doesn’t really work.”

Windows 365, which became generally available Aug. 2, might also solve bandwidth parameter issues that remote desktop users have experienced for intensive activities such as live video, he said.

Randy Jorgensen, managing member of RJNetworks, a Microsoft partner based in South Jordan, Utah, said that Windows 365 will be a tough sell for his clients in rural areas with poor internet connectivity. “Live and die by being able to do anything if the internet goes down? That’s a problem,” Jorgensen told CRN in an interview.

The pricing also shows Jorgensen that Microsoft isn’t aiming Windows 365 at small- to medium-sized businesses, he said.

According to Microsoft, the basic model of Windows 365 Cloud PC for businesses starts at $31 a user a month for up to 300 users and goes up to $66 a user a month with added support for Microsoft Visual Studio, Power BI and Dynamics 365.

Meanwhile, Jorgensen said he’ll experiment with Windows 11 once it becomes more available. Clients are already asking him about migrating to the new OS, but Jorgensen said he’s telling them to wait until users start providing first impressions.

“We’re not jumping into anything immediately. Let everyone else beta test it. We’ll wait for 11.1,” he said.

Chesley Choudhury, chairman and founder of TanChes Global Management, a Houston-based Microsoft partner and member of CRN’s 2021 MSP 500, agreed that a lack of access to internet connectivity and reliable power in parts of the U.S. might prove a hurdle for mass adoption of cloud PCs. But he still sees potential in the new technology.

“When 5G is out and that bandwidth issue is resolved, I think it’ll be huge,” he told CRN in an interview.

Tanaz Choudhury, president and CEO of TanChes, said the migration to Windows 11 is more “inevitable” than exciting. But it’s a chance for MSPs to have a deeper conversation with customers about the lifecycle of their devices and budgetary needs.

“If you make it more of a collaborative effort, it’s an easier conversation,” Choudhury told CRN in an interview.

A Microsoft spokesperson told CRN in an email that Windows 365 will have benefits for employee management as well.

“For example, seasonal workers also can ramp on and off according to the needs of the business, allowing the organization to scale for busy periods without the complicated logistical and security challenges of issuing new hardware,” according to the email. “Further, companies can be more targeted in how they outfit specialized workers in creative, analytics, engineering, or scientific roles who need greater compute power and access to critical applications.”

Customers concerned about the price of Windows 365 can apply for the Windows Hybrid Benefit, “which offers a discount of up to 16 percent on a subscription if the users already use Windows 10 Pro on a device,” according to an email from a Microsoft spokesperson to CRN. “Additionally, businesses of all sizes can provision Cloud PCs for the specific employees who would benefit most from their use.”

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