Microsoft has been throwing around the phrase “Windows as a service” for a few months, but up until recently it hasn’t been all that clear exactly what that meant.

With Windows 10 set to launch in a few months, Microsoft is doing a better job of explaining what kind of service we’re talking about: the company is changing the way it rolls out upgrades, bug fixes, and security improvements.

Say goodbye to monthly “Patch Tuesday” updates and major new builds of Windows every few years. Instead Microsoft will continually roll out updates as they become available.

windows update_02

That means Windows 10 will be the “last version of Windows,” at least until the company decides to shift strategies again.

Right now there are no plans for Windows 11 or 12. It’s all Windows 10. But that’s not to say that Microsoft has no plans to offer new features. It’ll just bring them to Windows 10 as they become available instead of waiting for the next version of the operating system.

This also means that once you install Windows 10 (or buy a computer with the software installed), you probably won’t have to pay for a major software update in a few years.

Cynics might think this means Windows 10 won’t be complete at launch… and they’re kind of right. Microsoft has already said that Windows 10 for phones won’t be available until a few months after Windows 10 for desktops launches this summer, and Windows 10 for desktops will include the new Microsoft Edge web browser, but some features including support for Object RTC and web extensions won’t be available in the browser at launch.

But in some respects. Windows 10 will never be complete, just the way Ubuntu, Fedora, OS X, Android, iOS, and other operating systems are never really complete — because there’s always room to roll out updates to patch security vulnerabilities or to add new features.

It’s just that Microsoft is shifting from rolling out small updates at regular intervals and big updates only a few times a decade to rolling out updates on an ongoing basis starting with the launch of Windows 10.

But that’s all long-term stuff. In the short term, the decision to move away from “Patch Tuesday” means that instead of delivering bug fixes and security updates on a monthly basis, users will be able to get patches for security vulnerabilities almost as soon as Microsoft finishes working on them.

According to PC World, users will be able to select whether they’re in the “fast ring” or “slow ring” for security patches depending on whether they want to prioritize speed-of-delivery or wait a while to make sure the kinks are worked out before applying updates on their own systems. That’s the same approach Microsoft has taken for delivering updated pre-release builds of Windows 10 to users signed up for the Windows Insider Program.

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20 replies on “Windows as a service: Windows 10 will be continually updated (with no Windows 11 in sight)”

  1. They are just being Apple copy-cats with the naming scheme. OS X… “X” means “10”… Windows “10”. Apple has no plans for “OS 11”, so neither does Microsoft have plans for “Windows 11”.

  2. Interesting shift. I guess with Windows being installed for free on an increasing number of low-end devices, they are seeing the end of it as their cash-cow through OEM licensing. Instead they seem to be hedging their bets on Office 365 subscriptions. Whether that proves to be wise, time will tell.

  3. Yup this is it all the rest were betas for “windows as a service” the ultimate near term goal. What this means is its the end of the road for this technology until the next OS change…like DOS to Windows to ????.

    Basically this is the deal. The very moment Windows 10 launches is the very moment the mobile landscape changes dramatically and permanently. The very moment IOT, 3D printing and Augmented Realty become mainstream. The very moment the race to over a Billion devices and the largest App store on the planet starts.

    It is good…as Microsoft leads the world to a more exciting . open and more secure and productive future.

    1. No, I doubt MS is able to do much anymore.

      Android and Apple iOS are the leaders in Mobile in case you didn’t know. 😉

      1. …and Wordstar and Worperfect were equally dominate, if not more so…. See the problem with your scenario is that WP (Microsoft Mobile) is by far the best mobile platform running a full OS known as Windows 10…after people accept it (Through bridges) then they will improve it beyond the other two major platforms and perhaps extinguish both in time to a point of avoiding anti-trust.

        Seen this movie over and over I know how it ends…you can’t keep selling an insecure (Android) and ultra expensive (IOS) and do that in perpetuity. In the end Microsoft becomes the dominate mobile platform worldwide…just a matter of time. All starts the day Windows 10 mobile launches and their new slew of Microsoft phones penetrates markets worldwide. My Nokia 635 not 10-15 times worse than an iPhone 6 + in fact its better as it runs Windows 10…for $40. People will get clue it simply takes a nudge here and there from Microsoft for the less enlightened ones.

        Get your popcorn ready.

        1. Nah, I don’t think so. It looks like Redmond’s Titanic is sinking.

          Nothing can save Windows at this point.

          I already ate my Popcorn during the Win8 show, Sinofsky was great! XD

  4. the thing that has me excited is Universal apps I really hope companies will take advantage of this since there are a lot of apps I wish would come to Windows..

  5. This is interesting. It’s good that all users could (theoretically) all be on the same version and never be out of date. It’s bad because the “improvements” will likely increase the system requirements over time and opting out of “improvements” will probably be much more difficult. I passionately hate the Windows 8 interface. If that had been an automatic update to my Windows 7 system and there wasn’t an easy way to undo it, I would have been furious. Now, that’s an extreme example, and it’s unlikely that Microsoft would radically alter the entire interface in a single update. But there will be updates and changes as the OS evolves. They may not radically alter the interface in one update, but they may shift it in another direction over time. Users may not like the changes, and there probably won’t be any easy way to avoid them. One of the great advantages of major version upgrades is each user can decide if they want to upgrade to that version or skip it. The OS will likely also make your system slower as more “improvements” are added. Either forcing you to upgrade the hardware (if possible), ditching Windows for a lightweight Linux alternative, or dumping the hardware and getting something newer. I have old machines that run Windows XP great. Despite the doomsday predictions after updates creased, they’re still excellent general web machines. They don’t support enough RAM to run Windows 7 or 8 comfortably (I consider 2 GB to be the minimum for 7 & 8. I’ve used 8 on a tablet with 1 GB and it was painful.) If Microsoft had dumped all the “improvements” of Vista into these machines, they would have been unusable. Now, Microsoft has done well in making Windows 8 lighter on resources (frankly, the only redeeming quality of 8 in my opinion). It’s possible the resource climb is an unfounded worry, but only time will tell.

    1. That’s a good point, a strength of windows has been that even if you don’t want to upgrade right now to a particular version, older versions are still supported with fixes. It’s not like say android. However we also see consumers who complain that major new areas of functionality aren’t backported – people want to have their cake and eat it. So I can imagine MS saying why bother – give ppl new stuff for free, and save money on maintenance of multiple versions.

      Major changes would have the advantage of being rolled out gradually. There wouldn’t be a “windows 8 interface” for you to even refer to. Sure, there’d still be some specific things you might not like – you’d either get used to it, or spend 5 minutes to download the utility to change it back. There wouldn’t be the problem of ppl having to adapt to a load of changes all at once. There also wouldn’t be all of the media hate (often typed from behind a light up apple logo by ppl who don’t use windows) that tediously accompanies a new version, which typically blows a mundane complaint out of all proportion (I didn’t like the start menu in xp to 7; I didn’t go around telling everyone windows was unusable for those years).

  6. I predict that eventually Microsoft will drop version numbers in the marketing, just as Chrome and Firefox are no longer referred to by their latest numbers. So it will just be “Windows” or “Microsoft Windows”, and various components of the OS will be updated in the background over time. If there are specific, advanced components that you need, such as for enterprise purposes, then you pay extra for that as an add-on, but otherwise the core components of Windows will be updated for free on any computer you buy that comes with Windows installed on it.

    1. I predict Windows might be replaced by another O.S. about 4 years from now.

      Microsoft needs to focus on Mobile and Cloud if they want to survive.

      Anyway Windows might become irrelevant after 2020 probably.

      1. Yeah, perhaps. Windows could evolve into something like Chrome OS — stripped down to the point that it’s essentially a front-end client to the cloud. But a lot of that depends on how broadband, both landline and over-the-air, evolves in the U.S..

        Either they keep the name, and “Windows” will simply become the above, or they’ll come up with another name: Perhaps Microsoft One (since they already have OneDrive).

  7. 10 huh? Will they name the point releases like Windows X Yellowstone…

    So what’s the price of the “service”? Pay once or is it like their Office pricing?

  8. This also means that once you install Windows 10 (or buy a computer with the software installed), you probably won’t have to pay for a major software update in a few years.

    People did that? Given the rate of turnover in computer hardware, I doubt upgrades were ever a major driver of Windows sales, and given the cost of servicing the older versions (especially the security updates), I suspect Microsoft could end up saving money with this move.

    Microsoft will make its money the same way Google and Apple do — control the official channels of distribution on your platform (and taking a nice cut along the way) and sell additional services on top, like Office 355 and cloud storage.

    1. Very 20th century thinking. Computers now last much longer than the 2-3 years they did back in the 1990s, when they would quickly become functionally obsolete.

  9. Does this mean there’s a robust registry cleaner built in that will run on a regular schedule?

    1. Microsoft isn’t going to want to touch something like that. Cleaning up the windows registry after god-knows what applications have been successfully/unsuccessfully installed and/or removed over the years requires all kinds of hacks and dealing with special cases to get right.

      The only thing Microsoft should be doing in this area is replacing the Windows registry with something which is far more robust and easily managed. Of course, that’s more easily said than done given the millions of legacy applications that would have to be supported.

      1. They are making changes… Like Universal apps don’t effect registry… So you can install and uninstall as many as you want without needing to clean up the registry…

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