This week and to much fanfare, Microsoft launched Windows 10. Three years after their much misunderstood Windows 8 release Microsoft are hoping they have finally found the right balance between their desktop and tablet/touchscreen interface. Many articles have been written about the reasons why Microsoft skipped Windows 9, and about how, in a radical departure from its traditional paid software model, they have decided to follow Apple’s lead and offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade for anyone running Windows 7 or 8 (for the next year anyway).
The thing I find more interesting with this change of direction is that fact that with Windows 10 Microsoft are actively promoting their increasingly pervasive “As a Service” model by talking about Windows as a Service.
Turning products into services has been a huge and growing trend in IT circles over the past decade. We have progressed from Software as a Service (SaaS) through to a range of “as a Service” acronyms that have become crucial building blocks that make Cloud computing a reality, including:
- SaaS – Software as a Service
- PaaS – Platform as a Service
- IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
- BaaS – Backend as a Service (for non techy readers in this context Backend refers to the software running behind a website of app that stores and manipulates data and not your bum!)
In recent years, like many traditional software vendors, Microsoft have been transforming their business from one that is reliant on selling software licenses to one that is reliant on service revenue. One of Microsoft’s largest cash cows, Microsoft Office, has in recent years transformed from a product to a service with the launch of Office 365. Initially Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs, it has now become a subscription service including online, desktop and mobile office apps, accompanied by cloud storage and a hosted Exchange email service for business customers. Office 365 joins other Microsoft SaaS offerings, including Dynamics and Sharepoint, and huge PaaS and IaaS offerings through their Windows Azure platform.
So what is Windows as a Service?
Microsoft have become a services company, but how can Windows fit in to this strategy? Jerry Nixon is one of the company’s developer evangelists, and when speaking at the Microsoft Ignite Conference said “Right now we’re releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we’re all still working on Windows 10”. Since then the message from Redmond has been clear, Windows is no longer something that comes pre-installed on a machine and thats it. Windows 10 is the foundation upon which they intend to constantly iterate and add new features. No longer will you have to wait 3 years for the next major release. Microsoft intend to release new features as and when they are ready.
To that end the consumer version of Windows 10 will not have the option to disable Automatic updates. Much like Google Chrome, Windows will have adopted one of the basic tenants of the “as a Service” model of always being up to date. As long as you connected to the Internet and running Windows 10, you should in theory always be running the latest version.
This is a big departure from previous versions of Windows, which left software developers having to support several previous releases of Windows. Removing this burden should allow the time spent on supporting legacy systems to be devoted to developing new features, which should be a net gain for everyone. Only time will tell if the Redmond giant can pull off this ambitious feat.