Historically Windows Enterprise edition was only available by attaching Software Assurance (SA) to Windows Professional edition. The Enterprise edition was never directly listed on the pricelist or listed as an OEM product. From the 1st March 2014, Windows 8.1 Enterprise is now on the pricelist without needing to pay the recurring Software Assurance annuity. For volume licensing (VL), this only affects Open and Select Plus programs because all the other VL programs include SA.
Customers who buy through the Open or Select Plus programs can therefore save some money and still get the benefits of Windows 8.1 Enterprise. What’s the difference between Windows 8.1 Enterprise licence only and Windows 8.1 Enterprise with SA?
We’ll describe Software Assurance in more detail in a forthcoming blog but in a nutshell, you get all the extra technologies with Enterprise but none of the licence modifications that are required to enjoy those technical benefits. The technical benefits for Windows 8.1 Enterprise include Windows To Go creator, Start screen control, DirectAccess, BranchCache, AppLocker, Virtual Desktop infrastructure (VDI) enhancements and Enterprise Sideloading. However you’ll still need SA to modify the licence rights to take advantage of VDI or Windows To Go. So you won’t be able to fully utilise Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) without SA. VDA is the ability to store the client operating systems on a server instead of directly on the desktop pc or laptop so the user can use any licensed device to access their Windows desktop. A form of thin client computing which gives IT much more control over the deployments.
This volume licensing brief provides further detail.
Both Windows 8.1 Pro and Enterprise through VL are still upgrades and they require a qualifying underlying operating system. Also customers will be able to add SA onto Windows 8.1 Pro OEM licences up until July 1, 2014. The brief actually says the PC needs to have been purchased before July 1st but of course customers should be ok to add SA up to 90 days afterwards.