HP Enterprise hands Windows 10 a vote of confidence

Expanded consulting, mobile app development partnership with Microsoft says all enterprises need to know, says analyst

HP Enterprise's decision to expand its partnership with Microsoft this week is a vote of confidence in Windows 10, an analyst said today.

"Everything about this says good things about Windows 10 that Windows 8 didn't have," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Earlier this month, Hewlett-Packard cleaved, separating into two companies: HP Inc. and HP Enterprise (HPE). The former took the PC and printing businesses, while the latter got the enterprise hardware, software and services units.

On Thursday, Microsoft and HPE announced an expansion of an existing partnership, focusing on what the pair dubbed "Cloud Productivity and Mobility Solution Offerings," a set of consulting services targeting enterprises that want to move to Windows 10, shift more of their on-premises back-end infrastructure to the cloud, and emphasize employee mobility. Another part of the deal will sell business-specific vertical apps for Windows 10, with HPE stepping in to actually craft those apps for customers in the retail, energy and transportation industries.

"HPE will write your vertical apps for you," added Moorhead. "And they'll also consult with you on how to have end-to-end solutions."

HPE and Microsoft have already collaborated on applications for the automotive industry.

What struck Moorhead is that HPE is voting for Windows 10 by dedicating resources to the expanded partnership. "HPE realizes it can make money on developing mobile apps and management tools for Windows 10," said Moorhead. "That means HPE sees Windows 10, and features like Continuum, as making sense for the enterprise."

Continuum is Microsoft's label for the technology that allows a Windows smartphone to plug into an external screen, keyboard and mouse, then automatically optimize the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) for the larger display and alternate input devices to create a desktop-style system. Continuum also applies to tablets, detachable PCs with screens that separate from the keyboard, and convertible devices, which bend and twist to morph from notebook to slate, and back.

Unlike HP Inc., which has its own line of PCs to shill and sell, HPE could have passed on Windows 10, Moorhead argued. "HP Enterprise didn't have to do anything with Windows 10, it's choosing to do something with 10. That means it believes that there's a market for [the operating system], that people want it."

While that may be true, the reality is more complicated.

Enterprises, now almost universally running Windows 7, the 2009 operating system that followed the Windows Vista flop, will have no choice but to migrate to and adopt Windows 10. Microsoft will retire Windows 7 from support in just over four years, in mid-January 2020. At that point, Windows 10 will be the only viable OS for businesses that, as Moorhead implied, passed on the problem- and perception-plagued Windows 8 and 8.1.

Microsoft has said that some 8 million enterprise PCs have migrated to Windows 10, about 7% of the total 110 million the company recently claimed are now running the new operating system.

But there are signs that Microsoft is pressing harder than usual on Windows 10 and its suitability -- even this early in its lifecycle -- for businesses. "We have reached the point in the platform's maturity where we can confidently recommend Windows 10 deployment to whole organizations," said Terry Myerson, Microsoft's top OS and devices executive, in a post to a company blog last week as he announced the availability of Windows 10 1511, the first feature and functionality upgrade in a long series.

Historically, businesses, especially the largest, have been slow to migrate from one edition of Windows to another. In 2014, for example, many organizations still had numbers of Windows XP-powered PCs in place, even though the OS was retired in April of that year.

Microsoft's advice might not be that far off-base, said Steve Kleynhans, a Gartner analyst whose specialty is Windows in the enterprise. While a long-held rule of thumb by enterprise IT was to wait for the first "service pack" of a new edition before beginning migrations, Windows 10 1511 effectively serves that purpose.

"Microsoft's advice parallels what the advice has been in the past, but just a little more ramped up," said Kleynhans in a recent interview. "Microsoft feels that [Windows 10 1511] is now complete enough for companies to get started."

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Gregg Keizer

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