Jerry Nixon, a Microsoft development executive, said in a conference speech this week that Windows 10 would be the "last version" of the dominant desktop software.
Instead of new stand-alone versions, Windows 10 would be improved in regular installments, the firm said.
Sounds like Microsoft is taking a page from Apple’s book. For over a decade, Apple has been offering OS X (pronounced "Ten", not as the letter X). Instead of moving on to OS versions 11 and beyond, Apple turned OS X into its own brand. Each major release has been built off of that version.
It’s interesting to see Microsoft move in this direction. It’s odd thinking that, in a few years, we’ll still be talking about Windows 10 and its latest updates as opposed to a whole new Windows release.
Yet, for Apple, such a move has also meant that their entire OS X line has had a strong basis on which to build from. Starting with the original OS X release in 2001, Apple offered a strong Unix-based operating system from which other features and enhancements could be brought. It was a big bet that has paid off in the long run, as OS X was the original basis for what became iOS, which itself is the basis of the software running on Apple Watch.
If Microsoft is making this move, they must have tremendous faith in the Windows 10 platform in the long term.
”There will be no Windows 11," warned Steve Kleynhans, a research vice-president at analyst firm Gartner who monitors Microsoft.
He said Microsoft had in the past deliberately avoided using the name "Windows 9" and instead chose Windows 10 as a way to signify a break with a past which involved successive stand-alone versions of the operating system.
However, he said, working in that way had created many problems for Microsoft and its customers.
”Every three years or so Microsoft would sit down and create 'the next great OS'," he said.
”The developers would be locked away and out would pop a product based on what the world wanted three years ago."
Microsoft also had to spend a huge amount of money and marketing muscle to convince people that they needed this new version, and that it was better than anything that had come before, he explained.
Moving to a situation in which Windows is a constantly updated service will break out of this cycle, and let Microsoft tinker more with the software to test new features and see how customers like them, he added.
Changing how Windows is updated is a be a big deal for Microsoft. It also could mean a better experience for users, depending on how the upgrade process will go. Over the past few years, Apple has made updating to new major releases a very painless process through the Mac App Store. Hopefully Windows 10 will echo this.
Of course, while Microsoft is finally doing to Windows what Apple did to Mac OS over a decade ago, the other big question still remains: how much will these future ‘major’ updates cost? Apple’s OS releases remain free. Will Windows updates all move to free, too?
And, of course, this isn’t taking into account consumer confusion: Windows 10 vs OS X. Though if they want to truly copy Apple, they can name major releases after inspiring locations in Washington state.