Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Windows 10 Licensing Logic - Long Term Service Branch

Licensing is for some a nightmare and for others fun. I am none of either parties. Anyway its part of my job to explain also these aspects. Recently I found out there is some curiosity around the LTSB licensing topic and I did my own research on it.
Its quite tricky to get it licensed in not so common scenarios.
When you are an enterprise with your own Microsoft volume licensing contract then everything is fine. You can go for all of the different so called branches.
Big questionmark for any ISV / OEM is how to deal with the "evergreen" politics of Microsoft. In general this "being always up to date" is a good thing for a couple reasons:
  1. You never need to pay for Windows again on the same machine and you'll always have the latest version
  2. No more wipe and reload upgrades
  3. Software vendors and developers can almost guarantee that 90% of Windows users will have the same build
The third point there should make you smile if your PC has ever crashed or you've needed to phone support because an application isn't working. There are so many combinations of OS, patches, drivers, runtime files and versions around that reliability and consistency are devilishly hard to achieve. Applications and peripherals should work far better if the manufacturers and developers can work to a stable and single platform.

(For nice side kick checkout this blog entry as well

On the other side you may face some supporting issues with your special ISV software you want to avoid (e.g. may be you are not able to make all the updates just in time to make sure your customer can use your cashier systems. Also you want to avoid possibly interuptive things like Cortana. I personally dont believe that this may happen but other still does.)
It become more tricky when you are a service provider (e.g. cashier systems) and you do not want to tell the customer they can only get the LTSB with an enterprise version where you need also an volume licensing agreement and software assurance.
Also the question may arise the difference between:
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise vs. Windows 10 Long Term Servicing Branch.
Technically there is NO difference. When you check out features available in LTSB and in IoT Enterprise its the same. There is even no dedicated Windows 10 IoT Enterprise image available (as of today - things may change over time). Its in fact the LTSB branch. Just a different "marketing vehicle" in the different market spaces.
Means for corporate standard users the Windows 10 versions are:
  • Windows 10 Pro (Limited feature set with basic security like Bitlocker)
  • Windows 10 Enterprise (Full feature set especially also around security for enterprises)
  • Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB (a few less features as Enterprise like no Cortana, no Edge and no 1st party MS Universal Apps, Updates only by WSUS)
and in the IoT-Space (Internet of Things):
  • Windows 10 IoT Enterprise (Full feature set of Windows 10 LTSB as it is identical)
  • Windows 10 IoT Mobile Enterprise (Enterprise managable version of Windows 10 for Phones with additional support for PoS devices)
  • Windows 10 IoT Core (Focused for devices without screen. Like Arduino2 PCs. More focused on sensor functionality or headless functions)
When you are service provider (ISV/OEM) you are more looking for a easy solution to provide the customer the needed license.
There you have a couple options.
As ISV - NOPE there is currently no way to license an operating system in the ISV Royalty Program. So you have to look for either getting it throught the OEM channel. Ask your OEM hardware provider for it.
As OEM you can get the licenses through Microsofts Embedded Distribution (these are not thre regular OEM distributors. You have to look for Embedded Distributors like Arrow, Avenet or Elbacom (no preference just alphabetical order))

The table shows you as service provider one option called "Windows 10 v2015 Enterprise Upgrade" (or in 2-3 years another year version). (These license terms were valid while this blog was published. This may change over time!)

With this version you are eligable to use the current and past LTSBs (downgrade rights).
Without Software Assurance you have only the first 5 years support (only security updates)
With Software Assurance your have support for additional 5 years (only security updates as LTSB gets by purpose no new features).

This means when you buy e.g. the Windows 10 v2015 Enterprise Upgrade (without SA) you are eligable for one static version (in this case v2015 with support until Oktober 2020). To get another 5 years of support you have to buy additionally software assurance at the beginning. This also allows you to use future LTSB versions.

If you plan to go for regular distribution like EA/MPLS or Open (the customer had already a device) then you need for Enterprise always an underlying qualifying operating system (i.e. windows 10 pro, windows 8.1 pro, windows embedded 8.1 industry etc.)

If you talk to your Embedded Distributors you can get the licensing in the way you would do with OEM licenses. They provide you the OPK Kit and this form also allows you to preactivate your license and skip the OOB.

To get the full story see also here:
(Thanks to Harry Eagles and David Cattanach)

UPDATE 2018-3-28
There was a change in licensing to mention. Unfortunately I did not found a reference on MS Websites for this. In my country Germany there are two vendors offering a way to buy Windows embedded licensing for your production machines. These are Arrow and Avnet. I just added a good performance based explanation for the new LTSB licensing model when you need a couple single licenses outside of an EA or MPSA agreement.