Windows 10 – Why it is so important for education and beyond

 

There has been a familiar pattern from Microsoft in terms of OS’s recently, one good (XP), one bad (Vista), one good (7), one bad (8). So Windows 10 is important.

Microsoft’s largest customer base is corporate clients. Yet, with the failed Vista and 8/8.1 this is exactly who they forgot, and hence (in part at least) why they failed.

In schools, adoptions of new OS’s are met with scepticism. Its a vicious circle we have to deal with as network managers – not regularly upgrading software leaves hardware lagging behind, because it could run the old software. Old peripherals are kept going by old software, and then when a product comes along that requires an upgrade, we are held back by the older software and hardware of yester year.

Schools have for too long kept things running as they are as a result. If you were running XP for 5 years +, the thought of moving to Windows 7, changing everything you have built has meant technicians, network managers and senior management have kept what they have, lived with huge issues and not worked together to move things forward.

Partly, this is down to a lack of a decent alternative to XP for so long, that left technical staff in a rut, many cannot get out of. Be it there lack of enthusiasm for change, or SMT not embracing the change – if you cannot show someone the benefits, they wont motivate to do it. 7 achieved this, but the take up was slow. Partly due to bugs, mainly due to the lack of enthusiasm from technical support teams in schools to embrace it, after the mess of Vista.

I have seen this first hand. My home school took a huge leap of faith with me with a completely brand new 7 network (because their old network was so crap based on outdated software) – the success of this meant I could sell the plan to another 4 schools who were stuck in similar positions, and this was after 7 had been out for 3 years or so

And they made exactly the same mistake with 8 after 7. Its a tablet OS, for home users. Even MS themselves have failed to document it effectively. I am a driver of change, I always want the latest – but not at the sacrifice of reliability and there has to be a reason to move. The best windows 8 offered me was a nice login screen.

So 10 is important, 10 is important because 8 was so short lived 10, if its the right product, could come and mean that people have had to upgrade twice within three years, and that is not a bad thing.

In past years, licencing and cost and adoption at home would all impact take up in schools, but if we put the promises of Windows 10 aside for a moment – we can see how Microsoft are making this the easiest upgrade decision ever for schools, and that is tempting more people then ever to consider a quick adoption. And that, is crucial to the future of IT in schools moving forward.

So how are they changing this?

With EES, Microsoft’s annual licencing subscription for educational institutions – upgrading should now be a much more straight forward business decision. It simply doesn’t cost the additional £90-100 per machine any more to upgrade. A yearly cost, based on FTE includes software assurance, allowing you to run the latest versions of any MS software.

But, confidence in systems is born from the home – and Microsoft has made some strategic decisions here too – particularly in education. For instance, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade (that’s not education specific). Office 2013 is free for 5 devices if you have a child in an EES school.

So Microsoft’s two flagship products, will be easily accessible for those on older OSs to upgrade too.

But the product itself needs to be worthy of these new ways of shipping Windows and offices to the masses of consumer and corporate users.

What is getting me excited about Windows 10

Well, for a start, Microsoft have listened. The OS has corporate users central to their mindset. In fact, benefits for corporate users was the banner that the OS was launched under. Last September they wrote this blog with lots of promises: http://blogs.windows.com/business/2014/09/30/introducing-windows-10-for-business/

Home users are not forgotten, but the stuff we need in corporate environments needs to be embedded from the start, and it has not been before in this way. We, as technical staff can sell this product. And coming so soon after 7, we can hopefully look to convince SMT and governors of the benefits of pushing forward and updating software and hardware regularly. Supported by cheap licencing under EES reducing potential cost barriers.

Its convergence across devices makes a lot of sense, is interface is moving forward but not alienating users.

Everything I have read, and, as I type this on a Windows 10 running laptop, experienced has been exactly what they needed to do.

The right features, the right deployment means we may be about to enter a time where, in education at least, the vast majority of schools run the same OSs, making collaboration easier, software and hardware better and changes and development more focused and faster.

We can hope.