Windows 9 Watch

Windows 8's no-name update plan nails OS's coffin shut

Policy of smaller, faster updates also heralds broad changes to Windows in the future, say analysts; puts enterprises even further behind 8-ball

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LeBlanc said that businesses would be able to pass on the monthly OS updates. "[These] will be delivered automatically via WU [Windows Update] and optional through WSUS [Windows Server Update Services]," LeBlanc wrote. "Enterprises can take the update anytime."

And the even-more-frequent OS updates won't eliminate the necessity for Microsoft to launch a successor to Windows 8 in its traditional fashion, Silver argued. "Every three years or so they need to make a splash," he said of the usual marketing blitz that Microsoft conducts to convince customers, consumers for the most part, to buy new Windows systems.

Microsoft still makes the bulk of its Windows revenue from sales of licenses to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), the Lenovos, Dells and HPs of the world. Boosting hardware sales with a new OS has been a cornerstone of Microsoft's OEM strategy, and thus its Windows strategy.

That will be even more important this time around, as personal computer sales have been in a nine-quarter slump, with consumer sales hit most seriously. Revenue from OEM licensing of consumer-grade Windows, what Microsoft calls "non-Pro," declined 17% in the fiscal year that ended June 30, for example. During the same period, revenue from OEM licensing of commercial-quality Windows climbed by 12%.

The winners from Microsoft's switch to a constant update process, both analysts agreed, are consumers.

"Any acceleration in cadence is generally going to be beneficial for consumers," said Miller. "The biggest question is how enterprises will come to terms with consumer/BYOD devices coming in with more updated OSes than the business may have traditionally become used to."

Silver of Gartner was more worried about how enterprises would react to a constantly-in-flux OS if Microsoft continues the monthly updating after shipping Threshold next year.

"Microsoft needs some way to appease organizations that want to move quickly, [and appease] ones that just can't do it or won't commit to regularity," said Silver. "One size won't fit all."

The accelerated push of Windows 8 and 8.1 has already alarmed many enterprises, which are not used to such speed, and have no processes in place to handle continual change. By putting the pedal to the metal, Microsoft can only exacerbate the pain.

But in the end, organizations will have to find a way to adapt, disruptive as it may be; Microsoft certainly hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, or backing off its plans to crank out software, even if it's Windows.

Microsoft's intent, said Silver, is clear: "The goal is to be able to treat a large portion of the customer base more as phones than as PCs," he said.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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