Technology Leaders’ Quarterly Briefing

Windows devices and services

Q3 2020

Download PDF

During the past quarter, Microsoft was focussed on preparing the next major version of Windows 10, which we expect to be released October. As such, amongst other recommendations, this briefing includes reference to a readiness checklist for upgrading Windows 10.

From a device perspective, new dual-screen Android devices made headlines globally (initially only available in the US). Other news revolves around capabilities on improving Windows 10 on ARM-powered devices. We provide recommendations around these announcements along with suggestions on identifying if the upcoming support for two 4K displays on Tiger Lake Intel chips will be of value to your organisation.

Lastly, from a device management perspective, Microsoft continues to pave the way to transition capabilities to their cloud platform. The release of new features is significant and the challenge for technology leaders is to ensure their support teams are not left behind from the changes, and thus only experiencing the negatives and none of the benefits. We provide recommendations aligned with managing this risk.

The next quarterly report will be released in early January 2021, to receive an alert when it is published use the form in the left sidebar.

Windows OS news

Development of Windows environment has continued across the quarter with Windows 10 version 20H2 expected to be released in October. The coming version is not expected to bring significant new features, however, for enterprises, it does enable 30 months of support versus 18 months available on the 2004 version released in May. The upgrade is a trivial exercise for machines on version 2004 as it has an identical set of system files.  For machines on an earlier version of Windows the experience will behave like a Windows 10 feature update.

Windows 10 version upgrade checklists

See our free checklist for managing upgrade to Windows 10 versions, available at:

devicecraft.co.uk/windows-upgrade

Other Windows news and announcements over the quarter include:

  • One-third of computers are now on the latest version of Windows 10, Version 2004, which was released in May this year.
  • Microsoft has announced further capabilities to its Virtualization-based Security (VBS) offering to protect the Windows Kernel from data corruption attacks. Kernel Data Protection (KDP)  is available in Windows Insider builds and is a direct response to the growing number of firmware attacks  against Windows devices. KDP will be enabled by default on Microsoft Secured-core PCs which were announced in March.
  • Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based Edge) has a public preview providing native support for Microsoft Data Loss Protection (DLP).
  • Microsoft has announced the public preview of a Universal Print service that provides a cloud alternative to traditional on-prem Print Servers; this provides an option for organisations transitioning to cloud services that previously could not retire print servers.
  • For Linux Developers, Windows Subsystem of Linux (WSL) v2, which was released earlier this year with Windows 10 version 2004, will be made available to Windows 10 versions 1903 and 1909.

What is Virtualization-based Security?

VBS uses hardware virtualization features to create and isolate a secure region of memory from the normal operating system. VBS is enabled by default on compatible hardware as of Windows 10 version 1903.

  • Microsoft is ending support for Adobe Flash Player on Microsoft Edge (both the new Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Edge Legacy) and Internet Explorer 11 at the end of 2020. There are some Microsoft non-support options for continuing to use Flash if required for legacy apps.
  • Microsoft has extended the end of service date for Windows 10, version 1803, by 6 months to May 11, 2021, in recognition the COVID pandemic.
  • Window 10X release has been delayed to early 2021 for single-screen devices with UWP and web apps only, Win32 app support and dual-screen support in 2022.

What is Windows 10X?

Windows 10X is a yet to be released operating system from Microsoft. The operating system is thought to be a complementary version of Windows that leverages cloud computing in much the same way as Google Chromebook.

Learn more at: devicecraft.co.uk/win10x

Windows 10X dual-screen device. Source: Microsoft

Windows OS checklist

  • Identify your plan to validate and deploy Windows 10, version 20H2 due in October. For a checklist to assist on this activity see devicecraft.co.uk/windows-upgrade.

  • Adjust your plans for version 1803 to reflect 6 months support extension to May 2021.

  • If you have not removed Adobe Flash from your Windows computers double check if it is needed before end of support arrives.

  • Review the new Virtualisation Based Security capabilities for benefits to your organisation.

  • Decide if you should take advantage of participating in the public previews of Data Loss Protection features in Edge, or the cloud-based Universal Print service.

Device news

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. Source: Lenovo

Dell has released Intel 11th Gen Tiger Lake processor devices in North America with their XPS laptop and 2-in-1 PCs with sales in Europe expected to start in October. No news on Tiger Lake availability for the Latitude range.

Tiger Lake processors?

To learn more about computer processors, including Tiger Lake, see our buyers guide:

devicecraft.co.uk/cpu-buyers-guide

Lenovo provided a significant announcement with the ThinkPad X1 Fold now available for purchase. The device was first previewed in May 2019 and leverages Intel’s Lakefield processors, a hybrid processor with four low powered cores to provide extended battery life, together with a high powered core available on demand. Prices for business versions start at $3,099 in the US.

No significant announcements from HP with no releases as yet for 11th Gen Intel processors in their business devices (only consumer devices have been launched).

Almost 9 months after the end of life of Windows 10 mobile, Microsoft has released the Surface Duo, a Microsoft designed dual screen, Android-based, device available for pre-order in the US. Prices start from $1399. Microsoft is positioning the Surface Duo as a productivity device and avoiding referring to it as a smartphone despite its  phone functionality.

Android based Microsoft Surface Duo. Source: Microsoft

Other device based news in the past quarter:

  • Intel has announced Thunderbolt 4 as a successor to Thunderbolt 3. The new release will continue to use the USB-C interface and will appear on Tiger Lake powered processor devices later in the year. Benefits compared to Thunderbolt 3 include support for two 4K displays (up from one) and doubling data transfer to 32GBps.
  • Nvidia, a maker of Graphic Processors, is to acquire 90% of Arm, a designer of ARM processors, for $40 billion. Arm was purchased by Softbank in 2016 for $31 billion.
  • Microsoft has released a feature that adjusts your gaze on video calls so you appear to be looking directly at the camera, even if you are not. “Eye Contact” is available on the Surface X and is enabled via AI capabilities in the ARM-based SQ1 processor designed by Microsoft and Qualcomm.
  • Microsoft has announced 64-bit x86 apps will be available on ARM-based Windows devices starting with Windows Insiders from November. Support will be provided via software emulation as already provided for 32-bit x86 apps. The announcement removes a significant limitation as previously 64-bit x86 apps could not be used on Qualcomm powered devices.

Device checklist

  • Identify if Tiger Lake processor and Thunderbolt 4 benefits, such as dual 4K screens, will benefit your organisation.

  • Pre-empt user demand and determine your support stance for Surface Duo (for now, only available for pre-order in the US).

  • If your organisation does not use Windows on ARM consider if coming support for 64-bit x86 apps will influence your stance.

Device Management news

The blistering pace of development on Microsoft EndPoint Manager (MEM) platform has continued over the past quarter with a major Current Branch release for Configuration Manager along with three monthly technical previews.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM)

Microsoft Endpoint Manager is an integrated solution that includes on-premise Configuration Manager (formerly SCCM) and cloud-based device management workloads including Intune, Desktop Analytics and Windows Autopilot.

A key part of the MEM strategy is to facilitate a transition to cloud-based device management through the cloud-based MEM admin centre.

The new releases include many new functions, together with an overall trend to integrate features from on-premise Configuration Manager platform into the cloud-based MEM admin centre.

One key feature that didn’t make it into the Configuration Manager Current Branch release is the ability to remote control any online client over the Internet. This is a significant capability gap with most enterprise teams having to use screen sharing tools to provide remote support which is cumbersome when needing to elevate permissions on a user’s machine. The remote control feature was released in technical preview in June and has been further updated as a release in technical preview in September.

We expect the next significant release of Configuration Manager by the end of the year.

For completeness, Lenovo has also launched a SaaS device health and performance monitoring service, called Lenovo Device Intelligence. Details about the service are scant other than generic claims to leveraging AI and proprietary machine-learned models and being available in limited markets from October.

Device Management checklist

  • If you haven’t done so already, create your strategy to align with Microsoft’s transition to cloud-based device management.

  • Enlist your support teams to upgrade Configuration Manager to Current Branch version 2006 along with incorporating the new management and support features it enables.

  • Consider evaluating the Remote Support capability in Configuration Manager technical preview 2009 if your organisations current tools are not ideal.