There has been a great deal of speculation about whether Microsoft® would offer Windows® on a per-user, subscription basis, and it appears to finally be on the horizon. While the offering, expected this fall, will only be available to businesses, we will likely see more widespread availability in the future.
The first offering will be known as Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and will be available from a select group of Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) resellers. Priced at $7 per user per month, the subscription offering promises increased security, simplified licensing and deployment, and partner-managed IT.
Microsoft assures us that traditional Windows licensing is not going away, but it seems likely that the subscription model will be expanded to additional customers and potentially, consumers, just as Office 365™ is today. User-based subscription licensing meets a number of objectives. For the user, subscriptions allow access from multiple devices without the need for multiple licenses. For Microsoft, it provides a recurring revenue stream which, over time, may generate more revenue than a perpetual license. Of course the trade-off for Microsoft is that they no longer sell a separate license for each device, but the revenue model is merely a function of setting the appropriate monthly price.
In addition to Windows 10 Enterprise E3, Microsoft also announced an E5 edition, which will add Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). ATP is a cloud based tool designed to detect attacks on corporate networks and provide post-breach remediation. ATP is still in testing and Microsoft has shared few details publically. The difference between E3 and E5 may be summarized that the former as a subscription to meet the functional needs of the user while the latter provides the most comprehensive service and protection available. Pricing and availability for Windows 10 Enterprise E5 have not been announced.