“Windows as a Service” is failing. It’s obvious: Windows is not a service, and never was. It’s a desktop operating system, and it doesn’t need updates every six months. Even iOS and Android only get significant updates once per year.
“Updating All These PCs Sure Is Hard!”
Microsoft just put out a blog post about Windows 10’s quality, and it’s very defensive. Microsoft doesn’t explain what happened with the October 2018 Update at all, nor does it promise to change the development process in the future. The only real commitment is to more transparency and improved communication going forward.
To put all the recent bugs into perspective, Microsoft asks that we consider “the sheer scale of the Windows ecosystem”:
With Windows 10 alone we work to deliver quality to over 700 million monthly active Windows 10 devices, over 35 million application titles with greater than 175 million application versions, and 16 million unique hardware/driver combinations.
That’s right—Windows is a very complex beast that has to support a large number of hardware devices and software applications. That’s a reason Microsoft should slow down and stop updating Windows so frequently, not an excuse for constant bugs.
Windows 7 supported a lot of hardware devices and software applications, too. But Windows 7 wasn’t constantly breaking things. Microsoft provided a stable base of software for hardware manufacturers and software developers to work on.
We still agree security updates are important, of course. But Microsoft managed to deliver security updates to Windows 7 and older versions of Windows before “Windows as a Service,” and those security updates rarely caused problems.
No One Asked for Windows as a Service
No PC users asked Microsoft for Windows as a service. It was all Microsoft’s idea.
“Software as a service” is trendy. But these types of services are generally hosted on a remote platform, like Amazon Web Services or even Microsoft Azure. Web applications like Gmail and Facebook are services. That all makes sense—the company maintains the software, and you access it remotely.
An operating system that runs on millions of different hardware configurations is not a service. It can’t be updated as easily, and you’ll run into issues with hardware, drivers, and software when you change things. The upgrade process isn’t instant and transparent—it’s a big download and can take a while to install.
Very little software will break if Google changes something in Gmail. In the worst case scenario, Gmail will go down. On the other hand, millions of applications (or computers!) could break if Microsoft makes a mistake with Windows.
What Does Windows as a Service Get Us?
What has Windows as a service even gotten us? How much has Windows 10 improved since its release?
Sure, Microsoft keeps adding new features like the Timeline and Paint 3D, but how many Windows users care about those? Many of these new features, like Paint 3D and updates to Microsoft Edge, could be delivered without major operating system upgrades.
Just take a look at the many features in Windows 10’s October 2018 Update and ask whether they were worth all the deleted files and drama. Texting from your PC is great, but Microsoft could release an app that does that—in fact, this was once supposed to be a Skype feature. Clipboard history is cool, and a dark theme for File Explorer is cute.
But couldn’t we have waited another six months for Microsoft to properly polish and test this stuff?
“Windows as a Service” does get us a few things. It gets us applications like Candy Crush installed on our PCs. It gets us an ever-increasing number of built-in advertisements. And it gets us activation problems when Windows phones home once a day and discovers that Microsoft has a server problem.
Windows Doesn’t Need Big Updates Every Six Months
Please Microsoft, slow down. How about releasing a new version of Windows once per year instead?
That’s what Apple does, and Apple doesn’t need “macOS as a Service” to do it. Just create a new version of Windows every year, give it a new name, and spend a lot of time polishing it and fixing bugs. Wait until it’s stable to release it, even if you have to delay it.
Offer every version of Windows as an optional free upgrade. Don’t force people to upgrade immediately. Don’t trick people into installing the new operating system just because they clicked “Check for Updates.” If it’s good, people will install it.
If someone’s hardware or software doesn’t work correctly with the new release, let them stick with their old operating system.
It wouldn’t even be much more work for Microsoft to keep multiple versions of Windows updated with security patches. For Enterprise users, every September feature update is patched for 30 months. Just make these September feature updates the normal version of Windows and let all Windows users get them—done.
Windows 7 Users Are Watching
Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 7 a bit over a year from now, on January 14, 2020. After that, Windows 7 users will have to upgrade to a newer version of Windows or stick with a Windows 7 that won’t get any security patches.
How many Windows 7 users are looking at the Windows 10 update drama and dreading the upgrade? How many will stick with that vulnerable version of Windows when it comes time to choose?
The sad thing is that Microsoft does offer a more stable version of Windows! If you use Windows 10 Professional, you can at least delay updates for a while. And, if you use Windows 10 Enterprise, you can use a Windows release for up to 30 months, receiving security updates the whole time. But, although Microsoft is patching and supporting these versions of Windows, Microsoft won’t let home users get them.
We have to be the beta testers for Microsoft’s real customers—the businesses that pay for the good, stable software.