Microsoft Adds Software Assurance to Windows Embedded 8

Some of Microsoft's Windows Embedded 8 products gained volume licensing and Software Assurance options this week.

Starting July 1, it's now possible for organizations to upgrade a Windows Embedded device to run Windows Embedded 8 Industry Pro or Windows Embedded 8 Industry Enterprise editions. Volume licensing purchase options also are available, typically under the Open License and Select Plus plans.

In the past, Microsoft licensed Windows Embedded only to its original equipment manufacturing partners, which sold devices running various Windows Embedded operating systems to organizations. Microsoft's shift this month to broaden Windows Embedded licensing is aimed at upselling four enterprise capabilities of Windows Embedded 8 operating systems, including AppLocker, BranchCache, DirectAccess, and application "sideloading," to larger organizations.

Supposedly, the new licensing options also permit organizations to upgrade the OS without requiring a hardware upgrade as well, in some cases. They can use the upgraded licensing to maintain a single image across devices for management purposes.

Volume Licensing Features
The following capabilities can now be purchased under volume licensing for Windows Embedded 8, according to a "Microsoft Licensing Brief" document:

  • Windows Embedded 8 Standard Enterprise Kit
  • Windows 8 Pro Sideloading
  • Windows Embedded 8 Industry Pro Upgrade
  • Windows Embedded 8 Industry Pro Sideloading
  • Software Assurance for Windows Embedded 8 Industry Pro

The Windows Embedded 8 Standard Enterprise Kit is an upgrade to the Standard edition that "unlocks" the four enterprise capabilities of the OS. Alternatively, those four capabilities (AppLocker, BranchCache, DirectAccess and sideloading) are available by licensing the Windows Embedded 8 Industry Enterprise edition. Microsoft's licensing brief document states that the Windows Embedded 8 Enterprise edition can be used on "devices that are licensed for Windows Embedded 8 Industry Pro with Software Assurance."

Microsoft's new volume licensing program for Windows Embedded 8 includes a couple of options to add the "sideloading" capability, which is Microsoft's term for the ability of organizations to load Windows 8 applications to a device without going through the Windows Store. It typically might be used by organizations wanting to add line-of-business apps to devices.

Organizations can add Software Assurance to Windows Embedded 8, which provides upgrade rights to the next version of the OS within a subscription period at no additional cost. It also adds virtualization rights (up to four virtual machines per device) and the ability to sideload apps. Software Assurance is a requirement for the initial purchase of the Windows Embedded 8 Industry Enterprise edition. Microsoft includes Software Assurance in some of its volume licensing programs, such as Enterprise Agreement and Open Value licensing.

Microsoft's licensing brief lists a few other perks for organizations using Software Assurance on Windows Embedded 8 Industry Pro. One of them is TechNet benefits, but Microsoft recently announced that it is ending the TechNet program, so it's not clear what that means. Organizations that purchased new Windows Embedded 8 devices have 90 days in which they can add Software Assurance coverage, if wanted.

Other Windows Embedded News
Windows Embedded is Microsoft's other OS line that supports industry machines, point-of-sale devices, kiosks, ATMs, electronic signs and other specialized-device scenarios. The embedded OS product line shares similarities to Microsoft's flagship Windows OSes, but they have some limitations, such as write, keyboard and gesture filters for devices. Some of the Embedded OSes are modular, enabling customization of the OS, whereas others just support fixed images.

In June, Microsoft released Windows Embedded Compact 2013, which is designed for small devices such as scanners. The announcement marks the last milestone in a roadmap plan that Microsoft described last year. Microsoft indicated that it added Wi-Fi, cellular and Bluetooth support with this release of Windows Embedded Compact 2013. It also improved the performance of the file system and system boot-up time. Windows Embedded Compact 2013 is based on the Windows CE kernel, whereas other products in Microsoft's Windows Embedded 8 product line share the Windows 8 codebase.

Microsoft also announced late last month that a "release preview" version of Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry is available for testing. This preview includes updates to the user interface of the OS, as well as security and connectivity improvements, according to Microsoft's announcement. Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry release preview also has added support for barcode scanners and magnetic stripe readers.

Not all of the Windows 8 Embedded products will get an 8.1 upgrade. Microsoft is planning 8.1 upgrades for Windows Embedded 8 Industry and Windows Embedded 8 Pro. However, there aren't any plans for an 8.1 upgrade to Windows Embedded 8 Standard.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.