Microsoft has finally abandoned its bug-ridden update model process. Extreme Tech reports Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows.

For the last few decades, Microsoft would sit down and build a new version of Windows every three years or so. This new version would start shipping on new PCs, but by and large, consumers didn’t run out and buy the new version to upgrade their computers. They simply got the new Windows when they got a new computer. With Windows 10, Microsoft isn’t even getting cash from those who do want to buy the latest and greatest version. Following the furor over Windows 8 and it’s tablet-centric design, Microsoft has announced Windows 10 will be a free update for one year from release.

Update has thus far been a hub for security patches and bug fixes, which is a necessary evil when you’re running the most popular desktop operating system in the world. Windows 10 would get “real” updates that add functionality and change the way the OS works over time.

This would be more like the Chrome model for software updates, where new versions are pushed out frequently. Sometimes you open Chrome and it looks a little different or does something new. Almost no one knows what version of Chrome they are running because it changes so frequently. This experience might be the future of Windows. It makes you wonder how long they’ll bother with the “Windows 10″ branding. One day it might simply be “Windows.”

It sounds like making Windows 10 free isn’t just a mea culpa from Redmond. This “final” version of Windows has the core changes necessary to be updated incrementally, so Microsoft wants as many people as possible to be running it. Built-in apps like Xbox and Mail have been designed to be designed in Windows 10 to be updated independently of the OS, and even Office for Windows 10 will get incremental feature updates rather than a big launch every 3-4 years.

Most of Microsoft’s income from Windows is based on new PC sales, so it’s not likely to take a hit from using this ongoing update model. This is Windows as a service, which is something Microsoft has been wanting to do for years. A few years ago Microsoft might have had the clout to charge an additional subscription fee for Windows as a service, but now? It’s not clear if Microsoft will go down that road, or if the new PC license fees will be enough to satiate investors. We’ll see what happens after the free update period for Windows 10 is over.

Future Pricing

How will pricing work? Good question: Microsoft sheds light on Windows 10 revenue, future OS pricing plans.

When Microsoft announced Windows 10, it said devices running Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 would receive a free upgrade for one year after the OS shipped. Devices upgraded in this fashion wouldn’t just get a one-time update code — Microsoft committed to keeping any upgraded device current “for the supported lifetime of the device.” Exactly what those words meant has never been clear. But new statements out of Redmond may have shed some light

Last week Microsoft announced that it would no longer recognize revenue from Windows 10 consumer licenses when those devices were purchased, as Computerworld reports. Instead, it will defer some of the revenue over several quarters, depending on the estimated supported lifetime of the device.

Windows 10’s free upgrade: An unlikely stick

Here’s the good news: Microsoft is incredibly unlikely to try and turn Windows 10’s free upgrade into a perpetual stick. For one thing, any attempt to stick consumers with a gotcha price at the end of the first 12 months would result in the mother of all class-action suits, and Microsoft is savvy enough to know this. Handing users a free product, only to stick them with unexpected continued-use costs 12 months later after businesses and consumers had already transitioned, would run afoul of consumer protection laws in both the US and the EU.

With that said, however, there’s a definite question regarding exactly how long the “expected lifetime of the device” actually is. Microsoft has historically provided support for operating systems long past what it considered their prime — Windows XP support lasted 13 years, while Windows 7 Extended Support will run through 2020.

Microsoft has fought for years to pull users off of old versions of Windows, and the “supported for the lifetime of the device” language is likely designed to allow the company to move to a different support model. That doesn’t mean Microsoft intends to charge outright for future versions of the operating system, however. More likely, Microsoft wants users to treat Windows upgrades the same way that Android, iOS, and browser updates are typically treated, with the majority of users jumping for new versions as soon as they’re available. Businesses or individuals that choose not to do this may have the option of purchasing extended phone or technical support, in much the same way that companies can now.

This sounds like good news and probably will be as long as Microsoft does not roll out a major disaster like Windows 8.

What happened to Windows 9? There won’t be one. Supposedly this gives Microsoft a fresh start.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock