Microsoft will no longer support Windows 7 after 14 January 2020. With end of support coming for Windows 7, as well as many other Microsoft products, MSPs and solution providers are facing a quandary. Or as David Dadian, CEO of New Jersey MSP Powersolution said:
"It is an imperfect world, and, although challenged still, a Microsoft-dominated one, meaning that change may be unavoidable when support for Microsoft's products ends."
Microsoft Windows has reigned supreme on the desktop for well over 20 years, making it very difficult for businesses to opt for any type of alternative. According to the latest statistics from Starcounter, Microsoft Windows runs on 78.94 percent of desktops today, a substantial lead over its nearest competitor, Apple's OS X, which only runs on 13.89 per cent of desktop PCs. However, almost half of those Windows PCs are running Windows 7 or earlier versions.
Simply put, more than 30 per cent of desktop computers will have to change desktop operating systems if those users expect to get support and security updates from Microsoft.
Much the same can be said for the various flavors of Microsoft Office. Office commands a significant share of the desktop market and also goes through a similar support and upgrade cycle. Mainstream support for Office 2016 is slated to end 13 October 2020, while mainstream support for Office 2013 ended back on 10 April 2018. Office 2010 and prior versions have not had mainstream support for years, increasing the attack surface for organizations still using those non-supported products.
However, Microsoft has been pushing Office 365, a subscription-based offering which includes support, storage, and online access. What's more, Office 365 only needs a compatible browser to function. In other words, users of Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari can all use Office 365, regardless of their desktop operating system.
Microsoft's goal with Office 365 is to transform users that buy software into users that rent software. The current statistics demonstrate that Microsoft's strategy has been very successful; the number of enterprises adopting Office 365 is growing every quarter. Research from Bitglass indicates that 56.3 per cent of companies surveyed are using Office 365.
That said, Microsoft is only one of many companies moving over to a SaaS (software as-a -service) model that leverages the cloud. In short, more and more businesses are moving to cloud services, making the desktop PC less and less relevant. Rich Campagna, chief marketing officer at Bitglass, said it was "no surprise" that overall cloud adoption continues to skyrocket. "Organizations worldwide have come to trust platforms like Office 365 and AWS as vendors continue to bolster security and feature sets," he said.
For solution providers, the forthcoming upgrade cycle may bring forth a new opportunity; one where desktops are less important as service needs increase. For users of Windows 7, upgrading to Windows 10 may require a significant investment in time, and potentially hardware as well. Solution providers may want to look into alternatives to "rip and replace" and choose to transform desktops into Linux or even replace desktops with low priced Chromebooks. Either way, that could reduce costs for clients, while eliminating some security problems and ultimately saving time. The move to a Windows alternative also creates the opportunity to embrace more cloud services, and regulate the desktop applications of the past to the trash bin.
Dadian added "In a perfect world, Linux on the desktop would be a viable and great choice and we have a number of clients that use Chromebooks to connect to our DaaS -VDI solution and is a damn near perfect solution." However, Dadian makes a counterpoint. "In a Microsoft dominated world, Linux on the desktop may be a difficult adoption strategy, since many people resist change sometimes, no matter the investment."
While Dadian's observations may ring true, the stage is now set for the potential for change, all thanks to Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows 7 and other products. Solution providers looking to seize the opportunity and promote Linux also have some strong allies in their corner. All the major Linux companies, such as Canonical, Red Hat and SUSE offer support for Linux desktops. Most recently, Canonical expanded its support for the channel with the Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure program. Although geared towards supporting infrastructure, the foundation is now firmly in place to work with partners on other solutions built on Ubuntu.
All things considered, change is coming to the desktop, partially fueled by the demise of Windows 7, partially fueled by the growth in cloud services, and partially fueled by the adoption of alternate devices, such as tablets, smartphones, and chrome books. Savvy solution providers will need to start thinking about the best way to ride the forthcoming wave of change and consider options that may not have been palatable in the past.
Tyler Ohlhorst contributed to this story
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