At Synergy, Microsoft fulfilled licensing changes announced last October, but we still need SPLA

Windows licensing is finally getting more flexible, but it still has a little ways to go.

When Microsoft’s Brad Anderson made his way on to the stage at Citrix Synergy a few weeks ago, we knew what was coming. He doesn’t make the trip to Las Vegas to talk about the future of RDP or Citrix’s integration with SCCM. He makes the trip to talk about Windows.

But it’s not the first time we’ve seen a Microsoft person with a big title on state at a keynote talking about Windows. VMware had Corporate Vice President – Windows Enterprise and Security Jim Alkove on stage at VMworld to talk about to show how they were finally getting along. That was an awkward conversation–kind of like when your parents caught you fighting with a friend, lectured you about how fighting is bad, then forced you to shake hands and make up. (Interesting side note, Alkove left Microsoft for Nest two months later.)

That same awkwardness was missing in the Synergy keynote, and one thing stood out to me among all the topics that Brad and Citrix’s Bill Burley talked about: Microsoft would allow Windows 10 to run from the cloud.

Think of the path we’ve been on over the years. In the early days of VDI, nobody knew how to license it. Windows XP with SA was enough until Vista came out and introduced the VECD license. That gave way to VDA, which fixed a few things but still left us with ridiculous problems because it tied Windows to devices. If a device could run Windows and was included in your Software Assurance, you didn’t have to pay anything else, but if neither of those held true you were out $100/year per device. If a user has an iPhone, iPad, and Chromebook, plus a home PC that they use to access, that user costs $400/year just for the Windows licensing!

The community clamored for Microsoft to #FixVDA, and eventually we got some relief. Last year, Microsoft announced that companies would now be able to purchase Software Assurance on a per-user basis in addition to per-device. Since the EULA still specifically prevented using Windows 10 in the cloud, this only partially addressed the problem, but the writing was on the wall.

Now Microsoft has decided that it’s copacetic for us to run our VDI desktops from the cloud. Well, they only ever said Azure. But the other providers simply have to be included, right?

Actually, wait, haven’t I heard this before?

Oh right! Back in October, Microsoft announced the very same thing. Customers running Windows 10 Enterprise with per-user Software Assurance will be able to run their desktops in Azure “soon.” At the time they also mentioned a partner program for othe cloud providers, but gave no further details. So it seems that this is just the culmination of Microsoft’s pre-existing plan. That doesn’t make it any less exciting–it’s something we’ve been waiting years to see.

As grateful as we should feel (please read a skosh of sarcasm into that) that this has finally happened, we still want more. Fixing VDA and letting us run desktops from the cloud is for sure a great step, but in order to truly get with the times Microsoft needs to do one more thing: They need to create a Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) for Windows 10 desktops.

You don’t have to be a psychic to read these tea leaves. It’s coming, just slowly. We’ve said all along that Microsoft will change licensing when they’re good and ready, which probably means when they have a fully-baked DaaS platform ready to roll. I suspect you’ll see two announcements mere moments apart in the next three months:

  1. Microsoft now has a SPLA for Windows 10 Enterprise
  2. Oh by the way, Microsoft also offers DaaS desktops now

Only then can we say that Microsoft has fixed licensing, but there’s no doubt people will find new things to complain about. The thing is, people have been willing to pay Microsoft to use Windows the way they wanted to, but Microsoft was unwilling to allow all the new use cases. It hurt both end users and service providers, but I think we’re finally near the end of this long process.

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