Microsoft's plan to move more small-business users to Windows 10 Enterprise

Microsoft is looking to the coming Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 subscription plans as a way to upsell more small and midsize business users to high-end versions of the product.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Currently, only about 0.5 percent of small/mid-size business (SMB) users who are running Windows are running the Enterprise version, according to Microsoft's own data. But Microsoft is counting on its new Windows 10 Enterprise subscription plans to grow that number substantially.


Price is one reason SMBs have stuck with the Pro and Home Premium variants. But complexity around licensing and purchasing is another, the Softies say.

At Microsoft's recent Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft officials provided more details on the new Windows 10 Enterprise subscription plans that Microsoft will be introducing through its Cloud Solution Provider partners starting September 1. (The two new plans are on the August 1 preview price list. E3 isn't available for purchase for another month, however.)

The two new plans are known as Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and Windows 10 Enterprise E5.

Today, if SMB users want to buy Windows 10 Enterprise, they have to obtain a Software Assurance (SA) license and need to commit to multi-year contracts, annual up-front payments and device-based licensing (unless they opt for Enterprise Cloud Suite, which offers per-user licensing as an option).

Going forward, SMBs and larger companies will still have the ability to buy Windows 10 Enterprise and go the SA/device-licensing route, if they so choose, as the Anniversary Update is released starting August 2. But Microsoft also will be offering a new Windows 10 Enterprise option starting September 1 called Windows 10 Enterprise E3.

(Although Microsoft's original blog post announcing Enterprise E3 made it look like the new name for Windows 10 Enterprise, this actually isn't the case. It's just a complement to Windows 10 Enterprise).

Credit: Microsoft

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 will be available for $7 per user per month, or $84 per user per year. Those licensing E3 get Windows 10 Enterprise Edition, plus Software Assurance in those volume licensing programs that include SA.

Enterprise E3/E5 users will get a choice of two servicing options. They can be on the Current Branch of Windows 10 Enterprise, which means they will automatically get all security updates plus regular bundles of new features, automatically; or they can be on Current Branch for Business, which gives them between four and eight months to delay their new feature updates. Those on Enterprise E3 cannot opt to be on the Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) via which they will not get new features, just security fixes, for 10 years or so.

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 has a one seat minimum, but no seat limit. Those on E3 get five device installs per user of Windows 10 Enterprise. Microsoft is touting the ability to seamlessly step up Windows 10 Pro users to Windows 10 Enterprise using the Cloud Solution Provider Platform plus Azure Active Directory in under two minutes without a reboot required.

Windows 10 Enterprise E5 provides users with everything in Windows 10 Enterprise E3, plus Microsoft's Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection service. Windows 10 E5 is the only version of Windows 10 that includes Defender Advanced Threat Protection.

Enterprise E5 will be available through the Enterprise Agreement (EA), EA with SA and MPSA volume licensing programs starting September 1, but not (at least so far) through Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider partners. Microsoft officials so far are not disclosing the price of Windows 10 Enterprise E5.

Microsoft was encouraging its partners at the Worldwide Partner Show to consider the new E3/E5 plans as a vehicle to attach other Microsoft subscriptions, like Office 365 (E3/E5), the recently renamed Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite (EMS), Dynamics CRM Online (and later, Dynamics 365), and more.

Microsoft is advising partners to pitch Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5 as a way to get "enterprise security on a per user basis." (Microsoft added the option of Windows per-user licensing to Software Assurance in 2014.)

Officials told partners that there is a group of about 30 percent of all SMBs in developed markets (and slightly fewer in developing markets) that may be dealing with highly sensitive financial, personally identifiable, regulated data, and/or developing software or intellectual property in-house who are prime candidates for Windows 10 Enterprise.

While on the topic of licensing and bundles, the coming "Secure Productive Enterprise" E3 and E5 Windows 10 bundles -- which consist of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365, and its newly-renamed Enterprise Mobility + Security suite -- also will include some licensing rights for on-premises software, it turns out. (Microsoft didn't disclose the on-premises piece of Secure Productive Enterprise when officials originally announced the new bundles, and won't provide any further details at this time.)

Customers of these bundles, which are the replacement for Microsoft's current Enterprise Cloud Suite offering -- will be allowed one on-premises install of Office Professional Plus, and they'll be sold through EA and MPSA in Q4 of this year. They also will likely be sold through the Cloud Solution Provider channel at some point.

Update (September 2): Microsoft officials said that CSPs will be able to offer Windows Enterprise E5 starting October 1. Microsoft officials would not comment on the pricing of the E5 version, but I've heard from someone knowledgeable about the offer that it will be priced at $14 per user per month (estimated retail price through CSP) -- double the price of the E3 version.

Editorial standards