Should Microsoft Start Releasing New Windows Versions Yearly?

SurfaceThe current buzz spreading throughout Silicon Valley surrounds Windows Blue, an initiative by Microsoft to deliver a low-cost update to Windows that users can purchase at a much lower price than previous Windows versions. In theory, this sounds like a terrific idea as it would finally put Windows back in a competitive stance against OS X in terms of price and update consistency.

If Windows were to start being updated on a yearly basis, would you consider that a pro or a con for the average Windows user?

There are a handful of reasons I might buy into it as being an excellent idea, though it would also be very easy for Microsoft to take its eyes off the ball and lose that very essential enterprise market it has been holding on to so closely.

Here are some ways I believe a less-expensive yearly Windows update would be a benefit to users.

  • Microsoft could keep up with the most current trends and user demands
  • The barrier of entry for new users would be lower
  • Faster pivoting around dissatisfying major updates (example: Vista)
  • Improved social integration (new networks integrated faster)
  • A Lower price would lessen opposition based on cost
  • Faster global user adoption

Based on the successes of the $29 OS X update model, a cheaper Windows update would be more likely to receive faster customer adoption as the costs would fall well within the acceptable range for its users. At $29, it’s hard to find someone who would find that price outlandish. At $40-99, it’s far more likely that users would push back on updating until they absolutely had to.

What does concern me is the idea that enterprise customers would find the annual updates a bit too quick to follow. Remember, a lot of enterprises are still running Windows XP. Windows 7 only just started to be embraced by corporations when Windows 8 came out. I’m not convinced (despite Microsoft’s insisting that Windows 8 is good for enterprise) that the corporate would willingly embrace Windows 8 for at least another two years. By then, the next edition of Windows will undoubtedly be out (if not two should Windows Blue become a reality).

Another downside comes by way of what annual updates mean to the user. In previous Windows versions, features would be added by way of a free update to major releases. Service Packs are essentially free upgrades offered by Microsoft to its users in lieu of an annual release. You don’t have to pay for them, and you get to take advantage of additional features as they are added. As with OS X, most of the minor adjustments to the user experience happens by way of its almost-annual major release. This comes at a cost, even if it is smaller than you would pay for a traditional Windows release.

So what do you think? Would you look forward to annual Windows releases if the cost were kept down to that sweet spot around $29?

Photo: Ryan Matthew Pierson