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Microsoft aims 365 at an enormous overlooked market – front-line workers

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 27, 2017
With its new Microsoft 365 F1 subscription, the company plans to target millions of employees on the front lines of their organisations.

Companies of any size can purchase M365 F1 licenses, including those already paying for other Microsoft 365 plans, such as Business, Enterprise E3 or Enterprise E5.

In fact, Microsoft told reselling partners that they will have the best luck "with customers that are already using Microsoft 365," adding that "M365 customers are 2x as likely to attach Firstline Worker services" than those that haven't yet tried Microsoft's most expensive subscription packages.

What does Microsoft 365 F1 require? According to Microsoft's circular argument, "A Microsoft 365-powered device is the best way to experience Microsoft 365 F1."

And what's a "Microsoft 365-powered device?" That's "a PC with Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365 ProPlus, managed with Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS)." (Actually, that definition is slightly off in F1's case, since it runs Office Online, not the locally-stored, more ambitious versions of applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.)

But Microsoft also plugged less-expensive, Windows 10 S-powered hardware as suitable for F1 and its users. "We recognize the importance of providing Firstline Workers streamlined and secure devices that minimize total cost of ownership," Bryan Goode, a general manager with the Office 365 group, said in a post to a company blog. Goode then introduced new PCs from Acer, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo that run Windows 10 S - the locked-down edition that permits only Universal Windows Platform apps - as "ideal for firstline environments."

What Windows 10 does F1 license to users? In its online materials to partners, Microsoft simply labels it "Windows 10 Enterprise," the most expensive SKU (stock-keeping unit) in its portfolio and the same as is licensed by pricier subscriptions such as the $20 per user per month Microsoft 365 Business.

But the company also said that F1's OS license isn't the same as the real Windows 10 Enterprise. "The edition of Windows 10 Enterprise and the combination of Enterprise Mobility + Security components ... in Microsoft 365 F1 are unique to this offering and cannot be purchased as standalones [emphasis added]," the company told partners in a FAQ.

Does Microsoft 365 F1 come with "Windows 10 Enterprise in S Mode?" Good question. We don't know.

That mouthful - Windows 10 Enterprise in S Mode - was mentioned several times in materials promoting F1 as well as in the announcement of new Windows 10 S notebooks coming from OEMs like HP and Lenovo. In the latter, Windows marketing manager Bernardo Caldas said, "With the new Windows 10 Enterprise in S mode, customers will be able to experience Windows 10 Enterprise with all the benefits of Windows 10 S" after a future update if they also subscribed to M365. Doing so, Caldas added, would furnish some of the same security and management features provided to M365 F1.


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