Microsoft to add a standalone Windows Enterprise version to its business line-up

Microsoft to add a standalone Windows Enterprise version to its business line-up

Summary: Microsoft is introducing a Windows Enterprise Edition SKU available for the first time to those without Software Assurance.


Microsoft is tweaking its line-up of Windows versions for business users that revolve around its Software Assurance licensing program.


Microsoft is going to make Windows Enterprise available to those without Software Assurance coverage for the first time. Previously, only those volume licensees with Software Assurance (SA) were able to buy Windows Enterprise. Now there will be a new Windows Enterprise Edition SKU, or version, available to anyone willing to pay for it, according to one of my sources, who requested anonymity.

Microsoft also is ending the ability to attach Software Assurance to Windows Professional, another of its business SKUs, according to the same anonymous tipster.

Software Assurance (SA) is Microsoft's add-on plan for volume licensees that guarantees them automatic upgrades to the latest versions of certain products during the two-to-three-year period they are covered by SA. SA coverage is included in some volume contracts (like Enterprise Agreements) and has been an optional purchase under others. Certain Microsoft products, such as Windows Enterprise and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, have been available to date to Software Assurance subscribers only.

Microsoft officials confirmed the changes are coming in March. Here's the official explanation as to what's happening, via a Microsoft spokesperson:

"We have heard from customers of all sizes who could benefit from being able to use Windows Enterprise and we have responded to that feedback with the availability of Windows Enterprise as a standalone upgrade option. Additionally some customers per internal policy are unable to enter annuity agreements. This change expands the availability of the Enterprise edition to now include these customers. Windows Enterprise will be available as a standalone upgrade SKU in the Open and Select/Select Plus programs beginning March 1, 2014. 

"Besides the new set of options to obtain Windows Enterprise, for most customers these changes are minor as pricing and benefits remain the same. For example the Windows licensing use rights, and access to other Software Assurance (SA) benefits like new version rights, virtualization rights, or the product features and media are not changing.

"Overall this is a technical change to enable Windows Enterprise to be sold standalone with minimal impact to existing customers. Customers who are renewing existing SA are not impacted and customers who previously bought Windows Pro Upgrade + SA will buy Windows Enterprise Upgrade + SA at the same price with equivalent use rights.

"Going forward Windows SA will attach to the Windows Enterprise upgrade meaning that acquiring SA on any OEM Windows Pro license within 90 days of purchase will no longer be applicable as Windows Enterprise is not available through OEM. To help ease this transition for customers who leverage this option, Windows SA may continue to be attached within 90 days to Windows Pro on any new PC acquired before July 1, 2014."

Update: Directions on Microsoft has more information on the new Windows Enterprise changes

Microsoft is in the midst of rolling out sweeping changes to its volume-licensing program. The company is introducing a new Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) designed to replace the variety of volume-licensing plans Microsoft currently offers to small, midsize and enterprise users. Company officials disclosed previously that SA will be available in "future release" of MPSA that is currently scheduled for "the end of 2014."

I asked Microsoft officials whether they are changing the SKU line-up and licensing terms to ease upgrades in the hopes of attracting more business upgraders from Windows XP, Windows Vista and/or Windows 7 to Windows 8. No word back on that so far.

Update No. 2: And the official answer is no on the upgrade question. From the previously mentioned Microsoft spokesperson:

"This change is to provide additional purchase options to the Enterprise edition in general and it is not specific to Windows 8.1, as downgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise would apply."

Topics: Windows 8, IT Priorities, Microsoft, Windows, IT Policies


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Still open license only

    This is a good thing for businesses like ours, where we buy OEM operating systems and don't upgrade them. However, since it's apparently still an open license-only product, there's still presumably a 5-license minimum. That leaves a major objection for those who need less than five copies.

    As an example of why someone might want to do that, I have only three client PCs that access online banking. I might want to use AppLocker on to enhance the security of those three PCs, but I'd be forced to buy five Enterprise licenses to do that. Direct Access is another feature that requires Enterprise, but where small firms might only want to enable it on a small number of PCs.
    • these new plans would apply to OEM's?

      wow, that would doubly nice.
    • There is another way to fulfill an open license order

      with an open license agreement it does require you to order a minimum of 5 licenses, but there is a way to get this completed without having to order 5 win pro upgrades. Let me break it down for you. Let's say you only want to order two Windows Pro upgrades under volume licensing I can submit the order with two windows pro upgrades and then I can add two filler sku's to meet the minimum requirements. These filler sku's are non functional and they are usually anywhere from 7-9 dollars. I work for a gold volume licensing partner and I have previous experience working at Microsoft.
      Microsoft Licensing Expert
  • They need to force OEM's to sell PC with NO OS for less $

    Getting new PC's with an OS is so pointless as they are re-imaged with a bloatware free company image right away anyway.
    • Removing the OS won't save much $.

      In comparison to the rest of the machine, the cost of a Windows license isn't that much.

      Cutting out the Windows license from a $400 machine for example, won't lower the price to $300.
      • I guess,

        considering they make a ton of money putting all that bloatware on them, the license cost is meaningless to OEM's
        • Business computers don't have bloatware.

          By the way, the "Flag" button isn't for disagreeing people.
          • I just said the "Flag" button isn't for disagreeing...

            Who "flagged" eversso2?
          • Down-vote?

            There's a "Vote" button.
            There's no way to disagree, other than "flag".
            Not every comment deserves an answer, so "flag" becomes "disagree".
            Other than using it for spammers/scammers.
    • And then what?

      Congrats on your new brick. Now I suppose you take it to Geek Squad so that they may walk all over you?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Logical upgrade path for Windows 7 Ultimate users

    Well, taking into account that Windows 8 Pro did not have exact feature parity with Windows 7 Ultimate, I guess MS is making up for whats missing there.
    • upgrade from 7U

      Not really. 7 Ultimate still can get you Media Center which is still not available on 8.1 Enterprise. Also, with Open and MS Select licensing its a minimum 5 license purchase. 8.1 Enterprise Upgrade w/ Media Center included at retail would pretty much be feature match and availability match as 7 Ultimate, but that animal doesn't exist. Too bad for the enthusiasts! :(
    • Reply to Logical upgrade path for Windows 7 Ultimate users

      @ adacosta38 LOL .. not really! The "Ultimate" SKU is sort of a dead duck. Most needs are met by Home or Pro .. the Ultimate Extras are no more, unless you install an old copy of Vista.

      Don't feel either way about it .. it was an idea but there wasn't much of a demand and, let's face it, Windows 7/8.1 Pro meets most advanced needs including if you want Media Center installed. Enterprise has a few more features that relate to security, networking etc. for businesses with server architectures.
      Time Agora
  • Smacks of desperation

    The stranglehold monopoly is unraveling as was predicted well over a year ago.

    Can you say Xerox, Kodak or GM?
    • re:

      Sir Name
    • Not really

      The real reason is that for most the Enterprise version doesn't really bring much to the table you don't already get with Pro. Where I work, the principle reason we went with Enterprise with Windows 7 was that the only versions where you could get BitLocker encryption were Enterprise or Ultimate. But with Windows 8/8.1 the Pro version does bitlocker so we don't even really need Enterprise anymore for our purposes.

      I'm more wondering why bother doing Enterprise anymore rather than the fact that it is more available.
      • I agree completely

        I agree, at least in most cases. Three things come right to mind why you'd want Enterprise: AppLocker, Direct Access, or if you want to deploy your own images with some kind of automation rather than using OEM pre-installs. Personally, I've always been happy with OEM Pro, other than as you say, a few times I upgraded Win7 to get BitLocker. (But with Vista and 7, you could get Ultimate rather than forcing yourself into open license, as you have to with Win8).
      • Look more deeply and have a Windows 8 security conversation

        Windows 8 Enterprise has enough Enterprise IT benefits to move.
      • Reply to Not really

        Yup, you're right there. IMHO, those features should be rolled into Professional and the "Enterprise" SKU should be dropped. It would be nice if one could approach a Windows installation without having to reference a feature chart.
        Time Agora
    • can you say your an idiotic troll?

      because that's what you are and everyone knows that by the looks of your ranking.