The following predictions are taken from our 2020 Year in Review report. Complimentary copies available here.

1. Windows 10 update process will continue to be faster and less disruptive

During 2020 Microsoft has focussed on improving update methods. This is evident through using Enablement Packages, simplifying LCU and SSU dependencies and testing Windows Experience Feature Pack. These improvements are fundamental to enabling Microsoft to deliver value while minimising disruption. As such, we expect the efforts to be successful and we expect updates processes will continue to improve during 2021.

2. The shift to remote working in 2020 will make companies prioritise their Zero Trust strategies

Microsoft already has low friction Zero Trust options to leverage such as Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, and Azure Active Directory capabilities such as Single Sign-On (SSO) and Conditional Access. As such, we see Microsoft providing attractive options to capitalise on the shift in working habits (this has already been witnessed with Microsoft removing SSO application integration limits with the free version of Azure Active Directory).

3. Microsoft will continue to lead PC vendors in device innovation

During 2020 Microsoft increased the target market of its Surface devices while also experimenting with a new device category though the Microsoft Duo. This level of innovation was not shown by other PC vendors with the exception perhaps of Lenovo. Record growth figures indicate that Microsoft is being rewarded for this innovation. For this reason, we expect further device innovation to continue in 2021, starting with a much expected release of the Surface Pro 7, and including a Windows 10X device.

4. Growth in laptop sales will continue to outpace growth in desktops sales

The trend toward laptops over desktops will continue during 2021 as organisations re-enforce their business resilience through remote working devices.

5. Foldables will provide genuine value

The growth in laptop sales will be driven by home working. Large screen devices that can be moved to different locations within a home will be more valuable than long battery life or lightweight devices. As such, we expect dual screen foldable devices to provide genuine value. 

6. ARM powered devices to remain a niche option

Windows 10 on ARM supporting 64 bit x86 applications provides potential for organisations with significant 64 bit x86 applications to consider ARM devices. With that said, 64 bit x86 support on ARM devices is provided via software emulation as such we do not expect performance equivalent to Intel powered devices. We expect ARM powered devices to remain a niche option when native ARM64 applications are available.

7. Intel’s processor leadership will continue to erode

In 2021 it is generally expected that Intel will need announce if they remain a processor manufacturer or outsource manufacturing entirely. This will be significant, as Intel’s strategy to date has identified their inhouse manufacturing as a competitive advantage. We expect strategy distractions will continue to erode Intel’s processor leadership.

8. Microsoft Endpoint Manager will continue to integrate with other Microsoft services

Microsoft Endpoint Manager cloud capabilities will continue to get more integration into other Microsoft cloud service. This will build on current integration such as for BitLocker management and Defender for Endpoint.

9. Device performance and update readiness analytics will provide significant benefits

Microsoft has significant insight opportunities by analysing event data from end devices. In particular, aggregating data across organisations and identifying trends. This provides fantastic value to customers and we expect this will continue to improve via Endpoint Analytics (device performance focus) and also Desktop Analytics (update readiness focussed). We would like to see analytics extend to correlating on-premise policy settings with device performance and upgrade readiness.

10. Capability to manage remote Windows devices will gain significant improvements

We expend the pandemic induced remote working trend to result in a permanent shift in working habits. This will place greater importance on managing devices remotely. Microsoft is already meeting this challenge by providing guidance and new capabilities. We expect this to continue in 2021 through improvements in Windows 10 update methods along with features such as remote control of endpoints (introduced in Technical Preview in June and improved in September but pending a Current Branch release). Improvements for remote management will almost certainly rely on Cloud Attach.