Microsoft touts $404 per user savings with Windows 10

Enterprises can recoup migration investment in just 13 months, according to commissioned analysis

Microsoft this week said enterprises and organizations could save up to $404 per employee over a three-year span by adopting Windows 10.

That claim came from a company-commissioned analysis done by Forrester Research. After interviewing four Microsoft customers which have begun migrations from Windows 7 to Windows 10, Forrester created a hypothetical composite organization -- one with 24,000 Windows devices, and a large number of mobile workers among its 20,000 employees -- that it then used to model costs of rolling out Windows 10 and savings generated after the fact.

Microsoft regularly issues cost-savings pronouncements buttressed by company-paid third-party reports when it's trying to convince corporate customers to upgrade an operating system. In 2012, for example, Microsoft contended that Windows XP's support costs were five times higher than Windows 7's, part of a campaign to get enterprises to retire the aging XP.

This week's save-money stump speech was in the same vein.

According to Forrester's model, the composite company would spend about $4.3 million on the Windows 10 deployment, a figure that didn't include the cost of the Windows 10 licenses, since it assumed the subject firm was on a volume licensing agreement with Software Assurance, nor the cost of new hardware that wasn't already slated for replacement.

On the other hand, Forrester contended that the pretend company would save approximately $12.4 million with Windows 10 during the same period. As is typical with models like this, the savings came from a number of sources, a million dollars here, a million there.

The largest, by far, was credited to a boost in mobile worker productivity; $5.8 million in savings, said Forrester, after estimating "improved mobile worker productivity" of a whopping 25% with Windows 10. Among the reasons: faster and more thorough re-provisioning of mobile devices. "With Windows 10, the organization is ready to fully leverage virtualization for these employees, to help speed up their ramp-up and close project tasks," the analysis said.

Other cost-savers included simplified, self-serve application delivery ($1.9 million); faster boot times ($1.8 million); security improvements ($1.3 million); and third-party licensing ($1.2 million), assuming the company ditches antivirus software for Windows Defender. The most direct savings category was, according to Forrester, just $273,000 due to some streamlining in IT management duties with the new OS.

Some of the "savings" seemed more like robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the chores that were once done by the IT staff were simply shifted to the employees. Among them: Resetting passwords, some users doing the upgrade themselves, and notably, the $1.9 million savings labeled "streamlined application delivery." Using data from the four interviewed firms, Forrester credited that savings to much faster application installation, just 15 minutes by the worker who previously had to wait an average of 150 minutes for IT to provision a device. The difference between the two times was considered totally unproductive, and "billed" to the savings column at an hourly rate of $50.

It would be a rare employee who didn't have other things to do while waiting for IT to install an application on a device, making the unproductive time, and the savings, somewhat suspect.

And Windows 10's improved security and additional security tools like Credential Guard accounted for $1.3 million in savings, based on Forrester's estimate that both the number of security issues and the time taken to resolve them would drop by 33% by retiring Windows 7.

The bottom line, said Forrester and Microsoft, was that the migration to Windows 10 would pay for itself -- the breakeven point when savings equal costs -- in just 13 months.

The financial analysis conducted by Forrester can be retrieved from Microsoft's website.

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Gregg Keizer

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