Microsoft 365 and the Future of Windows (Premium)

What happens when you integrate three previously separate product offerings into a single solution? For Microsoft, the answer is simple: The future.

Or as I might think of it, the future of Windows.

My very career exists because of this product, and like many of you, I've spent much of the past few years wringing my hands nervously as this once-proud center of the Microsoft empire has been reduced, seemingly, to a bit player. But I spoke last week with Microsoft corporate vice president Brad Anderson about this future. And I'm starting to feel better about the strategy.

First up, if you haven't done so, I recommend watching Mr. Anderson's keynote from Microsoft Ignite 2018. Like everything else at Ignite, this talk is very much focused on the enterprise and IT. But it also neatly frames how Windows fits into Microsoft's broader strategy and product lineup. And as is so often the case, there are interesting bits here that will impact consumers and other individuals as well.

I went into my meeting with Anderson a bit unprepared, as I hadn't seen his keynote. I wasn't worried about that: I was ready to talk about Microsoft 365, Windows Virtual Desktop and the other highlights from his talk as it was.

We did so, of course. But Anderson was ready to take on the concerns I've raised about Windows on this site without any prompting from me. This discussion, and some of the other related conversations I had with various folks from Microsoft, inspired my earlier Integrity (Premium) article.

Before getting to that, let me briefly explain who Anderson is, and how we ended up in this meeting together.

And we do go way back. Since arriving at Microsoft in the early 2000's, Anderson has always been very closely associated with Microsoft's management solutions, dating back to Systems Management Server. That product has since morphed into Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, or ConfigMgr. And on a parallel path, Microsoft has brought its management services to the cloud with Intune.

Microsoft talks a lot about "digital transformation," but if one were to look back on its management strategy and how it evolved over time, two things would stand out. One, it has absolutely transformed over time to become cloud-powered. And two, there were some strategy shifts over time.

And on that note, I was a fan of what was originally called Windows Intune right from the beginning, in 2011, when it was focused solely on PC management and was the lightweight, cloud-based alternative to ConfigMgr. You have to remember the era: Windows 7 was still the most recent version of Microsoft's core OS, Microsoft Azure was still called Windows Azure, and the cloud was still pretty scary to IT.

But things changed. Aside from renaming Intune, Microsoft evolved the product to include Mobile Device Management (MDM) capabilities for phones and tablets. Thanks to ConfigMgr integration, it formed the basis for Microsoft's so-called hybrid MDM offerin...

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