This day has been coming for some time.
It used to be that Microsoft would release a version of Windows about every three years.
Incremental updates, you know the Windows X.X type updates or in the past Service Packs (SP) before Windows 8, would come out after the release of a new version of Windows every 12-18 months or so.
There used to be common belief that you always waited for the first SP of a Windows OS before making an upgrade because that first update usually addressed any issues the OS had upon release.
This new Windows world of updates might change that philosophy.
Since the release of Windows 8 there has not been one SP released for Microsoft’s controversial OS. It did get an incremental upgrade last October, Windows 8.1, which certainly tweaked the OS UI to make it more accommodating to desktop users but it was not called a SP. Then earlier this year, in April, we had what was labeled Windows 8.1 Update which contained OS related updates that further enhanced the OS for desktop, non touch users.
With today’s Patch Tuesday updates Microsoft will not only release security related fixes to all their actively supported OS’s but Windows 8.1 will receive several updates to the functionality of the OS. These updates are not on the level of Windows 8.1 or the Windows 8.1 Update but they are more than just security fixes.
Previous rumors and reports called these updates Windows 8.2 or Windows 8.1 Update 2 but Microsoft came out last week and squashed those rumors with this statement:
Customers can expect that we’ll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of “Update Tuesday.” So despite rumors and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 “Update 2.” We’ll continue to use our normal channels such as Windows Update (WU), Microsoft Update (MU), and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to deliver updates to Windows. These updates will include security updates to help keep you protected, as well as non-security updates that can bring a range of improvements to your PC or tablet running Windows.
This is the same thought process that Microsoft has already applied to non-security updates for Office 365 subscription based installations. It also applies to Windows Apps that enhance OS functionality such as Xbox Music and Video, Skype, and all of the apps that are considered built-in for Windows 8/8.1 such as Mail, News, Sports, Finance, OneDrive and others are being updated individually instead of as part of the entire OS.
It means that Microsoft can iterate at a much faster pace to bring new functionality to end users at the desktop instead of having to try and incorporate these updates into the larger OS and then get all that put together and tested as a service pack or incremental update.
A good example is the Xbox Music app – right now it is being updated about once a week.
I believe that we have certainly seen the end of service packs for the consumer versions of Windows and I also believe that Windows 8.1 is the last incremental update we will see for a consumer version of Windows.
We will continue to see new versions of Windows released for the near future, such as the rumored Windows 9 Threshold, but that may even be the last time we see a version number on Windows as we know it.
After Windows 9 is released, if it is even called that, Windows will simply be Windows and it will receive routine OS updates, right alongside the monthly security updates as noted above, each month. Getting those updates will be as routine to us as the monthly security updates are under Patch Tuesday.
Patch Tuesday has become a proven delivery method of security related updates that has had over 10 years of testing to prove its ability. Adding small tweaks and updates for Windows to that delivery process is just a drop in the bucket that is already capable of carrying those updates to end users. Microsoft has been delivering firmware updates for the Surface hardware line on Patch Tuesday since the line first came out. It is not going to take much effort to routinely add Windows related updates to the mix.
The writing is on the wall and this is the road Microsoft is headed down and to be honest it is about time.
What do you think? Have we seen our last numbered version of Windows? Is this type of pace for updates a good thing or not?
Let us know what your take is in the comments.