Pentagon plans huge, swift upgrade to Windows 10

February 22, 2016 by Matt Day, The Seattle Times

The Department of Defense is embarking on a program to update millions of its computers to Windows 10, an unusually quick move for one of Microsoft's massive government customers.

Microsoft highlighted the department's plans in a pair of blogposts Wednesday, but the news emerged in a little-noticed November memo by Terry Halvorsen, the Pentagon's .

Halvorsen said the department must rapidly transition to Windows 10 to improve cybersecurity and streamline and lower the costs of its information-technology footprint. He set a goal of completing the migrations by January 2017. It's unclear what the project will cost.

About 4 million devices are slated for updates as part of the program, said Susie Adams, with the Microsoft group responsible for sales and support to federal-government clients. "This is an unprecedented move for the DoD," Adams said.

It is the largest single deployment of Windows 10 since its release six months ago, she said.

Sprawling are rarely quick adopters of new software, and the Pentagon's embrace of Windows 10 is likely to be read as an endorsement of the software's security features and stability, analysts say.

"The speed at which they're doing the deployment is shocking to me," said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy, an independent research firm "A year? That's fast. The DoD is normally last to deploy something."

Typically, Moorhead said, government agencies wait to see what vulnerabilities hackers find in new software, and consider updating when later versions or the government's own security workers have patched those vulnerabilities.

That hesitance, along with the massive scale of government agencies and a lengthy budgeting and review processes, has left the DoD with a patchwork of operating systems, from Microsoft's ancient Windows XP to Windows 7, and a smaller portion of software made by other companies, Moorhead said.

Windows 10 was released in July to generally positive reviews. Businesses were said to be more comfortable with Windows 10 than its widely panned predecessor, Windows 8.

Microsoft said last month that more than 200 million personal computers, Xbox game consoles and smartphones were running the operating system.

The Seattle-area company has touted Windows 10 like integrated fingerprint and face scanning and a feature that walls off the operating system's core functions to prevent them from being infected by malware.

Government clients, much like big businesses, usually buy Microsoft's operating system as part of multiyear service and technical-support packages that give them the option to upgrade to the latest software at no added charge.

It's unclear what the labor and other elements of the Windows 10 upgrade effort will cost. In his memo, Halvorsen advised the services and agencies within the DoD to "include developing cost estimates" in their plans.

For Microsoft, the hope is the Pentagon's apparent comfort with Windows 10 nudges big businesses to make a similar move, said Bob O'Donnell, president of Technalysis Research.

Technology buyers "can look at this and say, 'And those are the people keeping us safe,'" O'Donnell said. "This is a big win for Microsoft."

Explore further: Windows 10 keeps growing, now running on 200M devices

Related Stories

Windows 10 tuned for Chinese government

December 18, 2015

Microsoft is forming a joint-venture in China to tailor a version of its new Windows 10 computer operating system for use by the Chinese government.

Recommended for you

'Droneboarding' takes off in Latvia

January 22, 2017

Skirted on all sides by snow-clad pine forests, Latvia's remote Lake Ninieris would be the perfect picture of winter tranquility—were it not for the huge drone buzzing like a swarm of angry bees as it zooms above the solid ...

Singapore 2G switchoff highlights digital divide

January 22, 2017

When Singapore pulls the plug on its 2G mobile phone network this year, thousands of people could be stuck without a signal—digital have-nots left behind by the relentless march of technology.

Making AI systems that see the world as humans do

January 19, 2017

A Northwestern University team developed a new computational model that performs at human levels on a standard intelligence test. This work is an important step toward making artificial intelligence systems that see and understand ...

Firms push hydrogen as top green energy source

January 18, 2017

Over a dozen leading European and Asian firms have teamed up to promote the use of hydrogen as a clean fuel and cut the production of harmful gasses that lead to global warming.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 22, 2016
They gonna be reallly sorry when the Chinese government that has the source code for this will do all kinds of damaging hacks, some really bad for national security. Then the guv will have to pay RENT for this virus too.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.