SMB Windows Desktop Customers Left Hanging on a Cliff

November 6, 2017 - Update to the below blog.

Microsoft is now allowing SMB customers to acquire Windows E3 or E5 per User on a Cloud Agreement and run it as a virtual desktop on Azure or with a Authorized Qualified Multitenant Hoster (QMTH) Partner.  This is an improvement, but with limitations that are highlighted in the below URL.  This is not the same type of VDA rights users have with SA, and Windows on Cloud Agreements do not have SA.  SMB customers still have no option when it comes to user based Windows SA, unless they have enough size to purchase on an MPSA.

Click here to learn how to Configure VDA for Windows 10 Subscription Activation

October 3, 2016 - Update to the below blog. 

I am very sorry to report that the new Windows 10 Enterprise E3 available via the CSP channel on a Microsoft Cloud Agreement falls way short in my opinion...  

The new USL provides for up to 5 active physical installations, but does not include Software Assurance (SA) rights.  Yes, you heard me right, no SA rights!

What this means is all of the below items are not available:

  • Long Term Service Branch
  • MDOP
  • VDA
  • Virtual OS Support
  • WTG

And if that is not enough there are also no downgrade rights.  

August 3, 2016 - Update to the below blog.  

On July 12th at the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference (WPC), the below announcement was made.  It appears Microsoft has revealed how they plan to address the concerns raised in this blog post.  It is unclear if the new offering will also be available direct from Microsoft.

"Today, we are announcing Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP. Starting this fall, businesses can get enterprise-grade security and management capabilities at just $7 a seat per month for the first time through the Cloud Solution Provider channel."

Click here to lean more...


In February 2016 Microsoft removed Roaming Use Rights, a key Software Assurance (SA) benefit, from the Windows Desktop Operating System and Windows VDA.  This was a critical change that went unnoticed by most Microsoft customers.  The critical date for this change is January 31, 2017 or the end of a customer’s existing enrollment or agreement term, whichever is later.  The reference material section below contains the actual Microsoft verbiage.

So why is this such an important matter?  In order to answer this question we have to understand how business user computing has changed in the past 10 years.  If we go back a decade most users had a dedicated company issued PC and email on mobile phones was just starting to appear.  Fast forward five years and the average knowledge worker had multiple compute devices, which most likely included a company issued laptop, a smart phone, and a personal tablet.  As personal tablets became mainstream, employees pushed for access to their work environment while away from the office via these devices.  As technology evolved the introduction of the Windows virtual desktop arrived, which is also known as VDI.

VDI allows customers to install the Windows Desktop Operating System on a central server in the datacenter and then customers connect from both company owned devices, personal devices, and third party kiosks.  This new compute model was a licensing nightmare for Microsoft customers because Microsoft’s licensing models did not accommodate these scenarios.  Microsoft customers that accessed Windows VDI required each accessing device to be licensed.  This meant that every employee owned iPad or hotel kiosk where a VDI session was accessed required the Windows Desktop, Office, Project, and Visio be properly licensed.  As you can imagine licensing all third party devices an employee may access Windows VDI from was not practical nor cost effective. 

So in July 2010 Microsoft introduced a new Software Assurance benefit, Roaming Use Rights, to both the Windows Desktop, Windows VDA, and the Microsoft desktop applications (Office, Project, and Visio).   This new benefit allowed the primary user of a licensed device to access VDI from a qualified third party device while away from their office.  All third party devices used at the workplace still required the proper licenses.  The reference material section below contains the actual Microsoft verbiage for Roaming Use Rights.

In December of 2014 Microsoft introduced a user based licensing model for Windows Desktop and Windows VDA which was long overdue.  Unfortunately, Microsoft failed to provide SMB customers a path to acquire this desirable new subscription license.  The offering is only available on EA/EAS and MPSA, thus only customers with 250 or more employees can benefit from this new offering. The reference material section below contains the matrix from Microsoft showing how user based Windows and Windows VDA can be purchased as of June 2016.  As you can see Open Value and Open Value Subscription are not an option, and these are the licensing vehicles an SMB would purchase on.  It is very confusing why Microsoft made this decision, since they allow SMB customers to purchase single Office 365 enterprise subscription licenses. 

That takes us back to February of 2016 where Microsoft is now sending SMB customers back to the Windows Desktop licensing model that existed before July of 2010.  I am still dumb founded why Microsoft would do this without at least letting these customers know a new offering is coming that will provide like rights before they are slammed back in an archaic licensing model.  Please note that Roaming Use Rights for Office, Project, and Visio are all still in place as of June 2016, but who knows for how long.

I would like to point out this article also applies to customers who utilize Roaming Use Rights to run Windows To Go (WTG) on qualified third party devices.

So here we sit with all SMB customers who depend on Roaming Use Rights for Windows Desktop and Windows VDA hanging on a cliff heading for the January 31, 2017 deadline.  I reached out to the Microsoft licensing desk on April 27, 2016, they promised to escalate the issue and respond back to me in less than a week, I am still waiting for them to respond to me.

Reference Material Section:

Source Microsoft February 2016 Product Terms - Page 5

Windows Desktop Operating System: Roaming Rights for Windows Enterprise and Windows VDA is being discontinued as of either January 31, 2017 of the end of a Customer’s existing Enrollment or Agreement term, whichever is later.


Source Microsoft July 2010 Product Use Rights (PUR) – Page 5

Roaming Use Rights

As of July 1, 2010, we are expanding the product use rights for Windows Software Assurance, Windows Virtual Desktop Access (formerly known as VECD), Virtual Desktop Infrastructure CAL Suites, MDOP for Software Assurance, and Software Assurance for all editions of Office, Project and Visio to include Roaming Use Rights.  These new Roaming Use Rights will help to facilitate your users’ use of your virtual desktop infrastructure while they are away from the office.  The Roaming Use Rights permit the primary user of a licensed device to remotely access licensed software running in your datacenter from qualified third party devices.  In the case of Windows, Office, Project and Visio, these rights also permit the primary user’s use of the licensed software in a virtual machine on a qualified third party device.  See the Appendix 1 -- Software Assurance Benefits of this document for details.  All customers with active Software Assurance coverage or active subscription licenses for these products are eligible to use the software under these new rights.


Source Microsoft June 2016 Product Terms - Page 37

Red dot denotes not available on Open Value (OV) or Open Value Subscription (OVS)

Red dot denotes not available on Open Value (OV) or Open Value Subscription (OVS)