Microsoft: No New Versions After Windows 10

Microsoft Says It Won't Give New Names to Future Windows Updates

Windows 10
A preview version of Windows 10.

According to a Microsoft executive,  Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows to get an official name.

The 'Last Version of Windows'

That news comes via Microsoft's Jerry Nixon, speaking at the company's massive Ignite conference in Chicago last week. Network World quoted him as saying "Right now we're releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we're all still working on Windows 10."

Once Windows 10 is released, it will be updated on a regular basis, like a typical software program -- although, given how huge it is and how many computers it impacts, it almost certainly won't be updated on, say, a monthly or quarterly basis. That would be too disruptive to users.

Which Windows 10?

What it does mean is that there won't be a "Windows 11," "Windows 12" or other newly-named Windows version; it appears that there will simply be newer and older versions of Windows 10. This could create a problem, as Computerworld's Gregg Keizer points out: "Minus edition names, how will customers tell technical support what Windows 10 they're running? Without a name, how will they know whether their system runs what's current, or years down the line after countless OS changes, that an older program is compatible?"

This won't be an insurmountable problem; you'll just need to know how to find that information (as I show you here), but it will likely cause more confusion.

"I'm on Windows 7" is a lot easier to say than "I'm on Windows 10.1491."

It's worth noting that Apple has done this forever with its Macs. Mac OS X has retained that name for more than a decade. Each new version of OS X has gotten its own nickname, like Tiger, Mountain Lion and the current one, Mavericks.

Microsoft may do something similar -- in fact, it may have to. People are much better with names than numbers.

Paradigm Shifts

Microsoft has often introduced new paradigms with an all-new version of Windows. Take, for example, the switch from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Windows 8 brought a whole new way of thinking to Windows, focusing on the mobile and touch-first aspects that weren't considerations at all with previous versions. What will happen when Microsoft wants to turn everything upside down again? If it's just the latest version of Windows 10, how will Microsoft make it feel different?

The Bottom-Line Effect

Another problem is how sales will be affected, with no "New" version to sell to the masses. Although operating systems in general are becoming less profitable (and some, like Linux, have always been free), Microsoft still makes a lot of money off of Windows. It's moving strongly into other areas, like cloud computing, for new revenue streams, but Windows is still critical to its bottom line.

Windows 10 will be a free update to Windows 8 and Windows 7 users for a year, but after that, there will be a charge. A big question for Microsoft to answer is whether the ensuing Windows 10 updates will be free or not.

It can't afford to give away a billion copies of Windows 10, but it's hard to get users to pony up a lot of cash for what would be a mere update, as opposed to a whole new version. I suspect there will be some kind of charge -- it's too resource-intensive a product to just give away, even for a company as profitable as Microsoft. But as of right now, we don't have any information on that.

Will New Version Releases Be Events?

Another advantage of new, differently-named versions is all the publicity the company gains through news coverage and sites like this. That can be a negative at times, of course, if the product bombs, the way Windows Vista (and, to a lesser extent, Windows 8) did.

But in general, having your company's name out there in conversation is a good thing. Each new update will bring publicity, of course, but it probably won't feel as much like an "event" as it does now.

Despite those issues, Microsoft has decided to go down this new path. It knows the risks, and believes this makes the most business sense. Whether that's true will only be borne out by time.

How do you feel about Microsoft's decision to drop its naming conventions for Windows? Let me know on Twitter, @KeithWardWrite.