Horse Sense #134

Is Windows 10 the Last Version of Windows?

Is Windows 10 the Last Version of Windows?

You may have heard that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows. In a way, that may be true. For some time, Microsoft has been moving away from providing physical media for installations. Years before that, Microsoft abandoned printed documentation for its software. Microsoft now wants you to download its software and your documentation will mostly be "go to the Microsoft web site and search." This trend has been going on for some time. In fact, with its Office 365 offering and the ability to offer virtual desktops, the Microsoft product you use may never be in your possession or on a machine you own at all. It may just be a service that you rent out that sits on a provider's server. If you do not have to physically ship documentation or the product on a piece of media, you can save a ton in production and distribution costs. If you ship your patches via a download, as almost every manufacturer has done for years, you save an enormous amount in support costs and increase customer satisfaction. Software companies no longer want to sell you a book. They want to rent you the right to read that book in a digital coffee house by hosting that software on line. Instead of paying once and upgrading/changing at your convenience, you end up paying over time and getting changes when the hosting company/Microsoft implements them. Your costs may not go down. If someone is doing all the software maintenance for you, then you might expect to pay more. If you tend to use a piece of software for a long time, you will definitely pay a lot more in the new "rental" model. If you forget to pay your rent one month, you may find yourself locked out of your business.

Microsoft says it wants to sell you a Windows 10 license that will last for "the supported lifetime of the device." This is scary. It sounds like hardware manufacturers who no longer wish to support a piece of hardware can "force" an upgrade by declaring it end of life. Although the software *could* be updated, it will not be. There are no details so far on how this might work, but I fear it may look like something we already have seen.... Many Android phones have never gotten a security update or new version because service providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint and/or Android phone manufacturers do not release them. Because many users are still using those phones, security researchers are predicting a greater and greater likelihood of a security Armageddon.

Microsoft Wants to Support Its Manufacturer Customers, Not You

Microsoft has made its software popular by allowing manufacturers to customize their software for their hardware and resell it already installed. Original Equipment Manufacturer, or OEM, licenses of Windows cannot legally be removed and installed on another machine, unlike a *full* license you buy like normal software. Support for the full license comes from Microsoft. Support for an OEM license comes from the hardware manufacturer. Consumers and small businesses normally have OEM licenses.

The free Windows 10 upgrade works just like this. It is locked to the machine you upgrade, even if your previous license was purchased from Microsoft. If you accept the upgrade, you accept this limitation.

Before the free Windows 10 upgrade, you could have moved a non-OEM license to another machine by removing that license from an old machine and clean installing your product or moving an image of the old system on the new machine. After the free Windows 10 upgrade, not only is it not allowed, but the activation process will fail and the operating system will cease to function. Possible fixes involve buying a new Microsoft Windows 10 license or moving the older operating system software over from the old machine to the new one before you perform the free upgrade to Windows 10. Most people should not be trying to do something this complicated.

When you do the free Windows 10 upgrade, you are not entitled to free support from Microsoft or its OEMs. Since almost all small businesses and consumers do not buy Windows support contracts anyway, they probably do not care about this limitation. For larger businesses software support is a big deal.

Windows 10 Means Earlier Windows Versions Stop Getting New Features

Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1 users will not get any new features. Cortana, the Edge browser, Windows Hello biometric security, and other features will not come to these earlier operating systems. If you want these new features, you have to upgrade to Windows 10. Microsoft has already promised that some new features will appear in Windows 10 like updates to Edge. Whether there will be breakpoints where features will not be available unless you buy a new version number *after* version 10 is not known. For now, the Microsoft Windows road map almost ends at the Windows 10 destination.

What Does This Mean to You?

The changes mentioned above will mean you will have less support options and/or they will be more expensive and/or they may be tied to a specific hardware vendor. You may be forced into making upgrades and updates on someone else's time table. The net cost of your operating system, Windows 10, will go up substantially.

It may be *possible* that you get back some of your money in lowered costs elsewhere. I do not see evidence of that as yet as Windows 10 looks to be much more expensive to manage and secure than Windows 7. The way things are designed to work with Windows 10, you will be accepting some pretty big risks to your business.

©2015 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse