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Face of 'Windows as a Service' at Microsoft Moves to Deployment Side

Michael Niehaus, the public face of much of Microsoft's "Windows as a Service" effort, is now a principal program manager on the company's "modern deployment team."

Besides being a deployment luminary at Microsoft, Niehaus was formerly the director of product marketing for the Windows Commercial group. His new team works on Windows AutoPilot and mobile device management (MDM), as well as "subscription activation and related technologies," Niehaus explained in an announcement last Friday.

Niehaus had highlighted those technologies last year in an Ignite session, touting Intune MDM and Windows AutoPilot as the future for Windows 10 deployment. Windows AutoPilot is a PC provisioning service, promising zero-touch deployments.

In his new role, Niehaus will address enterprise modern deployment concerns. He'll work with organizations, partners and professionals, but "someone else can talk about Windows as a service," he noted.

Niehaus isn't on the modern management side of the house, but his team does collaborate with the Intune mobile management team. Here's how he described it in response to a question.

"There are effectively two pieces to the puzzle: The modern deployment (working on AutoPilot, MDM enrollment) and modern management (working on MDM capabilities) teams, currently under Rob Lefferts; and the Intune team under Brad Anderson," he said via an e-mail. "I'm on the modern deployment side, but as you can probably guess we end up spending a lot of time with the Intune team. It wouldn't surprise me if the teams eventually merge (at least the nonsecurity pieces)."

He'll nonetheless have an "evangelist" role advocating for both modern management and modern deployment, and he'll help customers to get it implemented. Niehaus added that Bruno Nowak at Microsoft will be taking on more of the Windows as a Service work. 

Microsoft's Windows as a Service messaging possibly is still a work in progress, even though company officials have been describing for years. The difficulty is perhaps tied to Microsoft's shift toward an agile software development model, which began showing up on the customer side in the form of more rapidly arriving Windows 10 feature updates.

The Windows as a Service model has stabilized somewhat in the last year. It consists of twice-per-year feature updates arriving in the spring and fall as "semiannual channel" updates, with each channel release supported for 18 months. In addition, Microsoft shifted to a monthly cumulative update release model, even for older clients like Windows 7. That shift took away some control from IT pros, who typically would uninstall a single problematic patch. Now they must roll back to the last month's cumulative update when patch problems arise.

Microsoft's agile pace with Windows 10 update releases still may be too rapid for some of its business customers. For instance, Microsoft recently added six months of product life to the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 versions 1607, 1703 and 1709. It earlier had extended the product life of Windows 10 version 1511, explaining that organizations were still getting used to Windows as a service.

Microsoft has been trying to get its business customers to test early Windows 10 update releases so that they will be prepared for the coming changes and can provide Microsoft with early feedback, Niehaus previously noted. Microsoft has also argued that its more frequent Windows 10 update model represents good IT practice for organizations to follow, and that it's necessary to assure security.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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