Is Microsoft making Windows worse to make it better?

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Windows 10 isn't just a new operating system; it's also a new way of delivering an operating system. In theory, Windows as a Service (as Microsoft calls it) promises a continuous stream of new features alongside the familiar security updates, instead of saving up new features for three years and then trying to persuade users those features are worth the cost of an upgrade. (And no, Windows as a Service is not a paid subscription service, unless you're a business paying for upgrade rights with Software Assurance.)

"This is increasingly the way the industry is heading," says Gabriel Aul, corporate vice president for the Engineering Systems team in the Windows and Devices group at Microsoft. "It's by no means isolated to technology companies. For example, you even see automotive companies like Tesla using a services model to provide new benefits to customers. We saw it as a natural evolution for Windows."

Microsoft has been using the services model for years with its regular security updates, Aul says, and Windows 10 lets the company take it to a new level. "We really do believe Windows 10 is the best Windows ever, and embracing a services model lets us keep making the experience even better with additional productivity, safety and entertainment value offered over time," he says.

That's the theory. But even before Windows 10 shipped, there was considerable pushback against the new Windows as a Service model -- and especially against using different branches to deliver updates at different speeds, such as Current Branch (CB) for consumers, who will get update downloads as soon as they occur without the option to postpone them, and Current Branch for Business (CBB) for businesses that want to delay updates (but still without the option to postpone them indefinitely).

However, while a great deal of attention has been given to concerns that Microsoft's new service policy gives you "updates whether you want them or not," there's been much less discussion of other implications of this approach: What this means when it comes to features that have been delayed or even downgraded (sometimes temporarily, sometimes not) before they get updated.

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