Autopilot is similar to Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP), in that you can pre-register a unique hardware identifier before the device is even turned on. When the device is shipped to the end user (think either a teacher or student purchasing a BYOD laptop), as soon as they connect their new laptop to a wireless network, it will be registered by Autopilot and provide:
- A custom set up experience as determined by the school’s ICT department (or their partner), this could include skipping steps in the device setup that are unnecessary or confusing for end users
- Branded setup, showing the school name and logo so the student/teacher can be confident in the security of the device and trust the setup process
- The option to enter their school email address/password which would automatically enroll the device into Intune (or Intune for Education), resulting in the correct applications and settings being pushed to the device
Microsoft’s blog announcing Autopilot described it as follows:
With Windows AutoPilot, IT professionals can customize the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) for Windows 10 PCs and enable end users to take a brand-new Windows 10 device and—with just a few clicks—have a fully-configured device ready for business use. There are no images to deploy, no drivers to inject, and no infrastructure to manage. Most importantly, users can go through the process independently, without making any decisions and without needing to involve IT.
Some of the benefits of Microsoft Autopilot include:
- Intune can push policies, settings, and configuration to the device, and install Office 365 and other apps without IT ever having to touch the device or apply a custom image to the device.
- Intune can configure Windows Update for Business to apply the latest updates.
- The device can automatically upgrade from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise seamlessly using AAD–no product keys to manage, no reboots, no prompts for the user (Requires a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 subscription)
Here is how you can set up the Autopilot program and see it in action:
The setup process when using Autopilot – note the branded sign-in page with logo and organisation name
My Point Of View:
I see Autopilot as a tremendously helpful tool for IT Admins in education as it will allow them to be more hands-free on the configuration and deployment of devices. Many schools love the simplicity of Apple’s Device Enrollment Program and now Autopilot enables similar functionality with full Windows 10.
An additional benefit is theft protection – if a device was enrolled into Autopilot and was later stolen, then even if it was wiped, it could not be used by the thief because as soon as it is connected to the internet the hardware identifier will enroll it into Autopilot again and start the school’s setup process – this can not be avoided until the device is un-enrolled by the school itself.
The other area where I see Autopilot adding significant value is BYOD. If a school uses an education partner and parents purchase their child’s BYOD device through the partner’s portal, then the hardware identifier could be registered with the school at the time of sale. As a result, when the student turns it on at home it is automatically connected to the school’s environment and has all of the apps, setting and network credentials pushed to it, ready for the first day of school – no more “onboarding days” at the school to get connected!
Even though this was just announced today, as ZDNet astutely picked up, this functionality was included in the Creators Update released back in April – just one more reason for schools to keep their computers updated on recent Windows 10 builds.