Microsoft has unveiled Windows 11 and while the release date hasn’t been announced (yet), press is speculating about an October 20th launch date.
What does this mean to our partner ecosystem and commercial businesses?
Over the short term, there will be little impact because Windows 10 will run side by side with Windows 11 until its end of life slated for late 2025. That’s a long way off and gives many companies time to plan for the upgrade and migration of users.
But that long lead time comes with risks if migration ends up on the back burner. The EOL deadline will hit faster than you realize and there’s a lot we can and should be doing now to help our customers plan for the journey.
Remote Work & Security Focus
Let’s first look at the changes or enhancements promised by Windows 11. Microsoft is promoting the security, productivity and modern design, which it describes as “designed for hybrid work”.
“Windows 11 is designed and built as a complete set of experiences, unlocking the full power of the PC our customers have come to rely on, including in areas like security, reliability, compatibility, video conferencing, multitasking, playing, creating, building, learning and more.” The Windows Team
Remote work and hybrid workplaces’ rapid expansion during to the pandemic created a long list of challenges for IT departments so it’s not surprising security is a key focus of the new operating system.
Windows 11 will require PCs have enhanced hardware-based security including:
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 protecting encryption keys, user credentials and sensitive data behind a hardware barrier. TPMs also help facilitate Zero Trust security.
- Virtualization-based security (VBS)
- Hypervisor-protected code integrity (HVCI)
- UEFI firmware
- Secure Boot
According to Microsoft secured-core PCs apply security best practices to the firmware layer, or device core, and are twice as resistant to malware infection.
Why Zero Trust Matters
Security for business PCs and in the enterprise, particularly with increased risks associated with remote work, requires a different approach to security – one that goes beyond traditional identity management and security/antivirus software. That’s just one of the reasons we are hearing more and more about the importance of creating Zero Trust environments and developing Zero Trust architecture – which has been a focus at Intel as we work to build the most secure products from CPUs and XPUs to the software that enables innovation.
If you’re looking for more information about Zero Trust, Intel's Senior Principal Engineer Cathy Spence does a great job of explaining the importance of Zero Trust to protect data and assets in the enterprise in this interview. This blog from Martin Dixon digs deep into Intel’s Zero Trust approach to architecting silicon and how it shifts the paradigm from trust based on physical connectivity or proximity to one that involves always authenticating every access.
At the PC level, Intel® Hardware Shield, as well as Intel Active® Management Technology and Intel® Endpoint Management Assist are just some of the tools we’ve built to harden the PC for stronger security protection.
Beyond security, Windows 11 promises an enhanced user experience, which PCs powered by Intel® Core™ processors and Intel® Evo™ platform deliver. We recently unveiled new functionality that taps into the potential of Windows 11, including Intel® Bridge Technology, which expands the ability to run mobile applications on a PC.
Digging into Hardware
Hardware requirements for Windows 11 have been making a lot of headlines since the launch event and include:
- Processor: 1 GHz or faster with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip (SoC). There will be no 32-bit option.
- RAM: at least 4 GB
- Storage: at least 64 GB of available storage
- Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later, with a WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display: High definition (720p) display, 9" or greater monitor, 8 bits per color channel
- On touch-enabled devices and tablets like the Surface Pro, you'll find big changes in the way that the pen and touch elements work, with more graceful transitions from PC to tablet mode and vice versa.
- On conventional PCs with multiple monitors and docking stations, the system can now remember the arrangement of windows when you reconnect.
Microsoft has confirmed devices running 8th Generation Intel processors or newer meet the requirements. Testing on additional models including 7th Generation Intel processors is underway so stay tuned – I expect to see the list of compatible devices expanding over time.
The Time to Start Planning Is Now
For our channel ecosystem, Windows 11 presents opportunities to step up as trusted advisors to help build awareness around Windows 11, and to lend expert guidance to assist our customers with the planning required to make the transition.
For partners in the XaaS space, this could provide the opportunity for businesses that have been considering XaaS offerings, such as device-as-a-service solutions, to finally make that move.
And, for those channel partners with customers that aren’t already on a regular refresh schedule, or aren’t interested in a XaaS offering, Windows 11 offers the chance to have PC refresh conversations early, and often. Priority projects tend to be ones with the tightest deadline and since Microsoft has announced it will continue to provide updates and support for Windows 10 until 2025, it can be tempting for customers to push PC refresh planning and discussions to the back burner.
Don’t do it!
Any company with a large fleet of devices will need time to ensure all devices are ready, especially if you don’t want to blow budgets in a single year or quarter.
As we start moving into the traditional fall budgeting cycle, taking the time to assess your customers’ Windows 11 readiness is a good idea. It might also present the opportunity to talk about moving spending from cap-ex to op-ex with a DaaS solution.
It’s never too soon to test
There’s another good reason to look at the implications of Windows 11 – software compatibility. Businesses need to start the process of testing whether core software and apps are compatible. You might find that legacy software solutions need modifications or modernization to function in this new environment … or it might be time to move to a modern platform to avoid future issues.
The good news is you have time, but we need to start looking at the unique situations and requirements of our customers to ensure they are thinking about, and planning for Windows 11 to avoid big headaches when the time comes to make the switch.