NEWS ANALYSIS: Once the next version of Windows is installed, Microsoft plans to begin a process of continuous updates that will eliminate the concept of next versions.
There's no question that Microsoft has learned from the pain of getting customers to upgrade from Windows XP and later from Windows 7 to 8. From now on, it never wants to be in the position of having to convince people to buy the next version of Windows.
While Microsoft Vice President for Operating Systems Terry Myerson didn't exactly say that when he kicked off the Jan. 21 presentation of the company's plans for Windows 10, that message was still clear.
The first indication of Microsoft's resolution was that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for most users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 or 8.1. But it was what Myerson said next that really gave things away.
That's when Myerson started talking about "Windows as a Service." The plans for Windows 10
include a continuous series of upgrades performed automatically. The idea goes far beyond the Windows Updates that are in place today.
Windows as a Service will include new features, new capabilities and new Windows apps, all created for the universal Windows platform, which will encompass everything from phones to desktop computers. Myerson said that the questions about what version of Windows you're running will become meaningless because everyone will have the same version as universal upgrades progress.
Or at least that's the idea. Myerson did not address the question of what happens when a user isn't connected to the Internet constantly, which can occur under a variety of circumstances, such as in enterprises where the IT department wants to tightly control the upgrade cycle.
But assuming that all the connections are running smoothly, Microsoft will no longer have to worry about decades-old operating systems floating around in the cyber-world causing trouble. Ultimately, it will probably save Microsoft a lot of money by minimizing support costs.
To make all of its plans come to fruition, Myerson said in his blog entry
that in addition to making the upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 free, the ongoing upgrade process will also be free.
Ultimately, this means Microsoft will eventually be free of the necessity to maintain vast numbers of staffers that have the responsibility of updating old operating systems and can instead focus on the very real need to continue adding new features so that Windows can stay relevant for as long as possible in the face of unprecedented competition in the operating system world.
This is particularly important because Microsoft has big plans for Windows, including making it into a common platform with a single app store for any machine. While there will be differences between the Windows 10 intended for phones and the version intended for desktop and laptop computers, Myerson said that it was more a matter of tailoring those differences to work well with differing screen sizes and uses.
Clearly, you'd want a different user interface for a small device, such as a phone, versus a larger computer, but deep down inside, they'd all be pretty much the same.
In addition, Microsoft is clearly going deeper into the hardware business and is now introducing new devices that go far beyond the Surface tablet.
In fact, the next stage of the Surface and Windows 10 is something called the Surface Hub, which is an all-in-one PC with an 84-inch 4K display that's optimized for brainstorming and other collaborative activities. This wall-sized display will include a version of OneNote that can emulate a smart whiteboard.