Last year I wrote about how Cloud redefines the platform we develop in It’s the platform, stupid. With the recent release of Windows 10, the platform vision becomes even more pronounced. Windows 10 is not just a new version of the Windows operating system; it’s the last version. There will be regular updates with new features and feature changes, to evolve Windows 10. It is not likely however that it will get a new version label like Windows 11. This idea is not new. Do you know the version number of Firefox or Chrome that you are running? And do you really care? These and many other applications are updated (almost) silently to the latest “version”. Like services in the Cloud you benefit from improvements, without having to pay extra.
Silent updates are not just for your benefit. For the vendor too, it means maintaining only one version. Microsoft currently needs to maintain five different versions of Windows, from Vista up to Windows 10. This means that if there’s any issue in one of them, Microsoft needs to check the other versions as well. If all five of them contain the issue, it needs to be fixed and tested five times!! As the older versions of Windows phase out, Microsoft will save on maintenance cost. On the other hand, no new version also means Microsoft can’t earn money from people upgrading. Microsoft needs the services around Windows to make money, which is also why Windows 10 is not just a new operating system, but rather a platform to build on.
By making Windows a universal platform across devices, Microsoft can leverage other services it provides and rely on Windows to sell these services. For developers, it means they can create a single App that works on any device. PC, tablet, phone, Xbox, and HoloLens are (mostly) the same, and silent updates ensure the features set across devices with Windows are the same. That alleviates developers from having to write software that takes into account the differences between versions of Windows, just the form factor. In a sense Windows becomes “just” another service to build on in the platform.