I have been looking forward to the release of Windows 10 for some time. Friends of mine inside Microsoft have told me that Windows 10 is what Windows 8 should have been. However, with just a couple of weeks to go before its public release, there are starting to be rumors that Windows 10 is going to be a “subscription” product. That is, you will subscribe to Windows and pay an annual fee. Then, Microsoft will roll out new updates and new versions to your machine, as long as you have a valid subscription. It’s not clear in this scenario if Windows will stop working when your subscription expires, or if an expired subscription would simply mean no new versions and fixes.
I’m really surprised by this. My sense is that for Microsoft to put the Windows 8 debacle behind them, Windows 10 has to be an out-of-the-park homerun. Windows 10 has to contain absolutely nothing that would cause anyone to pause for a moment before choosing to upgrade. I imagined Windows 10 as the heir apparent to Windows 7. That it would behave like a new and improved Windows 7; smaller, faster, and more secure, but with the familiar old Windows user interface. Sure, there would be an option to turn on the Win8 “Metro” UI for the three customers that actually liked Windows 8, but for the rest of us, Metro would just be a distant nightmare. I also imagine that Windows 10 will contain support for new hardware, such as M.2 SSD’s. Also, I hope that the new Windows might contain some killer app (not necessarily new to computing, but new to Windows), for example, built-in voice recognition that would knock Dragon Naturally Speaking off the block, or perhaps consumer-level photo editing software that would completely replace Google’s Picasa or Adobe’s consumer-level Photoshop SE.
That Microsoft is considering changing the Windows sales model ala Google’s Android OS, takes me by surprise. A subscription model for Windows is something that might give me, and other consumers, a reason not to buy. On the other hand, I have never been concerned by the fact that Google rolls out new versions of Android from time to time. Not only hasn’t this bothered me, I have usually been upset when my wireless carrier (Verizon) has been slow in providing the latest Android update. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, if a new version of Android were rolled out, and it was terrible, it would only impact my phone. Yes, that would be inconvenient, but nowhere nearly as disastrous as if my computer were forcibly upgraded to an operating system that I hated. Also, it’s worth noting that Android is actually open source. There are many variants of Android freely available that you can download and install on your phone, should you choose to do so. Were Google to create a new version of Android that is as hateful as Windows 8, one can be sure that in no time third parties would provide Android versions that fixed the problems. Such is not the case with Windows. Most important of all, I have never heard of a release of Android that people didn’t like. I do recall an update a couple of years ago that everyone agreed took some getting used to, but I never heard anyone say that it wasn’t a welcome improvement over the prior Android.
Microsoft, by contrast, has at least two recent OS duds under its belt: Vista and Windows 8 (to say nothing of prior missteps in both operating systems and applications.) Windows Vista was roundly despised by consumers and pundits. Personally I liked Vista and have no idea why people disparaged it. But, that said, it is clear that many people didn’t like it and if they had been forced to install it there would have been considerable gnashing of teeth. More recently, Windows 8 was absolutely catastrophic. I tried it on a virtual machine. After 15 minutes I shook my head in disbelief and deleted it. Subsequently I tried Win8.1 on a tablet for a couple of frustrating days before returning it to the vendor for a refund. Everyone I know that uses Windows 8 (outside of Microsoft) says that they find it utterly confusing. So, if Windows 10 ushers in a new era of Windows as a subscription service, potential buyers will have to ask themselves if they trust that Windows 11, 12, 13, and onward, will all be good upgrades. No matter how good Windows 10 might be, will I want to commit to letting Microsoft force new OS versions onto my machine? Honestly, the answer is “no”.
In just a couple of weeks we will learn what Windows 10 is actually going to be. Perhaps the rumors of Windows 10 as a subscription-only service are incorrect. Perhaps it will be good, old fashioned, installed software. Or, perhaps, like the most recent version of Office, you’ll have a choice of two flavors: a subscription version (e.g. Office 365) and a standalone version (e.g. Office 2013.) Regardless, I will be holding onto my Windows 7 discs in case I ever need to revert back to the last known good version of Windows.