A recent press release from the United States Department of Defense announced that they had already begun the transition to Windows 8. Microsoft has been awarded a three year long, $617 milllion license agreement covering their latest generation of products. This is especially notable as being the least expensive contract Microsoft has ever offered the DOD, according to the same press release. It has the potential to save tens of millions of dollars every year for its duration compared to previous agreements.
The savings are not the only incentive here, however. The biggest appeal of the transition to new versions is the content management. Because this agreement covers such a large spread of systems, including the Army, the Air Force, and the Defense Information Systems Agency, the ability to manage deployment, security, and content tools is a major benefit.
The additional security of Windows 8 and Office 2013 is clearly useful in this situation as well. The DOD announcement made special note of the fact that the newest versions of Office products had appealing security improvements that made them particularly interesting.
While Windows 8 itself does offer some security enhancements, it is unlikely that the majority of those using it as an outcome of this licensing agreement will be enjoying them. Most of the new security comes from the new Modern Ui environment and does not extend to the desktop side of things. It seems fairly likely that very little of the military’s software has been redesigned for Windows 8 just yet.
There has been some seemingly unfounded speculation since this announcement that the contract requires Microsoft to come up with a version of Windows that eliminates the new user interface features. While the press release does mention that there is some customization being required by the DOD as part of the agreement, it specifically notes that “the package has been customized to meet the specific security needs of the Defense Department.” The emphasis in this case would have to be on security and no other modifications are hinted at.
The agreement with Microsoft also enables a greater focus on mobile computing for the DOD. There is an obvious need for such resources in most enterprise situations and this one is no exception. Microsoft is making it possible to expand the mobile device capabilities of the affected organizations. Thanks to this contract it should be possible to develop more effective tools without sacrificing either security or flexibility.
It’s possible that this is one of the most ambitious collaborative bargaining efforts we’ve seen lately. By teaming up and handling the licensing as a group, the Army stands to save $70 million each year and the Air Force could save $50 million. That is a combination of the new price being offered and the benefits of standardizing installation and maintenance of Microsoft software.