back to article Microsoft explains Windows as a SERVICE – but one version remains a distant dream

Windows chief Terry Myerson proclaimed the advent of Windows-as-a-service at an event last month. But what does that mean? A more recent post from Enterprise and Security Directory Jim Alkove offers some clues. First, here is what Myerson said: Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it …

  1. BongoJoe

    One teensy question

    Let us imagine the very rare possibility of a Windows update borking something say a security patch that stops Active-X (ie controls) working in Office applications or a Search Patch which slows the machine to a halt...

    What happens then? Are we lumbered with this update or can we remove the offending patch? If the latter then not every environment will be the same and if the former will Microsoft test the patch indoors at Redmond first?

    After waking up to find a Do Not Update Windows 7 machine updated this morning (I think they get tired of asking and do it anyway because my long data run is not as important as their patch) I think that I would be very wary of such a practise.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: One teensy question

      Don't you have to actually disable the Windows Update Service to stop this from happening?

      If you didn't do that then perhaps someone changed the Windows update settings.

      But honestly, given the number of bum patches the MS (they aren't alone here are the Apple?) have released why would you leave any critical machine running with windows update allowed to apply the patches automatically?

    2. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: One teensy question

      Proper management of updates by you as a user is important. Updates don't get deployed to my work network until I've tested them. There's no mechanism for them to be deployed by end users either, so the idea of a machine randomly updating seems a little odd - as it just sounds like a lack of management to me.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: One teensy question

        Far do's. Now what about Windows as a Service? Will you be surrendering your position here?

        Anyway, well done for getting that right. I need to check where I have gone wrong. Thanks for the nudge.

        1. localzuk Silver badge

          Re: One teensy question

          We already pay yearly for Windows, Office, SQL Server and SCCM here, under the OVS-ES education subscription scheme.

          So, "Windows as a Service" is pretty much what I've got already, and have had for a decade.

          Only difference that I can see is that the upgrade stages (ie. going from one version to another) will be less a major headache to do the deployment!

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    ...asking ‘What version are you on?’ will cease to make sense – which is great news for our Windows developers.

    How can he say that, and then go on about multiple LTS versions of Windows? The man speaks with a forked tongue...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have I missed something?

    Apart from the naming, how does this differ to what's already happening now?

    LTS = Windows accepting only critical patches

    CBB = Windows accepting all patches

    So the can might look different, but the food tastes just the same.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Have I missed something?

      Are they rolling feature updates (i.e. future versions of windows) into CBB patches?

      If not, "what version of windows are you on" is still just as relevant as it ever was.

      If they are, then presumably the LTS initial+patches defines the version for LTS, but CBB is licensed forever for all upgrades/versions? I can't see that making business sense unless it becomes a subscription and its tied tightly to the hardware. I wonder how that will affect VMs...

      Still a lot of questions to be answered.

  4. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Apart from the naming, how does this differ to what's already happening now?

    Ah! You miss the point. the user currently has the control over when and where updates are performed and whether pointless "apps" like IE11 are installed.

    In the future M$oft want more control ... then, naturally, the user can be "offered" upgrades to purchase from Redmond's Dodgy Software Emporium. "Didn't want that app Sir? Sorry, you've downloaded it and you've been billed $15 as it wasn't a security update but an optional functionality upgrade which you've obviously accepted ..."

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Apart from the naming, how does this differ to what's already happening now?

      At the moment some machines here have IIS installed, others don't. All, for example, have Microsoft Search removed.

      Will this level of configuration for the actual Windows components be disallowed? And when it comes to the networking; I am tired of some of my machines telling me that, all of a sudden, its now in an internet cafe or that it's at 'Home' and it will bork the networking completely.

      Or will these joys vanish along with the ability to nail things down properly?

      I don't want Windows as a service but as an operating system even though it's gone a long way from that.. I think that NT4 was perhaps the last time I considered it to be a full operating system that I could recognise as one. Perhaps there's a micro o/s undernearh all of this lot to make this service run.

      Perhaps it's MS-DOS 4.0...

      1. Robert Helpmann??

        Re: Apart from the naming, how does this differ to what's already happening now?

        It's pretty obvious that this will not work well in most corporate environments, especially those that have air-gapped networks. Testing patches before deploying to production machines is a best practice that is too often neglected, but it does no good to Microsoft if they force those who Do It Right (TM) to abandon its OS because it undermines their processes.

        With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time.

        It might work, at least somewhat, in the home environment if the GUI is divorced from the rest of the upgrade process. I wouldn't hold my breath; they will fail to learn from either Google's mishandling of Android updates (allow the service providers to decide) or their own past mistakes and end up with a fragmented mess despite talking a good game.

        1. Tom 35

          Re: Apart from the naming, how does this differ to what's already happening now?

          Or it might be like Office 365. Log on and surprise, the UI has been updated and everything has moved. Can't find where that Exchange setting moved? Google it and everything refers to the old UI?

          Wont that be fun.

    2. Alan Denman

      Service to become a subscription eventually

      you are the Service, regularly getting 'Serviced'.

      Downgrades, upgrades, blacklisted accessories etc etc may well be part of that 'service'.

      And obviously, if not moving to Windows 11 this 'service' will likely turn into a monthly/yearly subscription.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Actually, I think Redmond wants to be serviced ...

    Keep on sucking, suckers. The shareholders are orgasmic.

  6. AmGnothiSeauton

    Win10 Supported Lifetime == Device Warranty Period?

    Microsoft will keep Windows 10 current for the "supported" lifetime of a device? As with just the ONE-YEAR warranty of a typical new PC?

  7. Jess

    Lifetime of the device.

    Meaningless, because they haven't defined it.

    So the lifetime of the device means until they drop support.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Lifetime of the device.

      > Meaningless, because they haven't defined it.

      It's in the small print - and it says, "If it breaks, you get to keep both pieces"

    2. Loud Speaker

      Re: Lifetime of the device.

      The lifetime ends when a "critical software update" borks it. Look up "critical" in a medical dicitonary some time.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: Lifetime of the device. in Lifetime Guarantees on pacemakers?

        1. Richard Plinston

          Re: Lifetime of the device.

          I have some Verbatim diskettes (5.25") that are clearly marked 'Lifetime Warranty'. Is that the lifetime of me or of my computer ? No. It is the lifetime of the diskette, some sort of average, maybe a year.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lifetime of the device.

      Good point, I don't think my machine has a "warranty" some of the parts do, but they're all over the place depending on when I last replaced the part.

    4. Richard Plinston

      Re: Lifetime of the device.

      > Meaningless, because they haven't defined it.

      That is correct, they haven't defined the terms. Elsewhere this is know as 'weasel words'.

      > So the lifetime of the device means until they drop support.

      The phrase used by MS was 'supported lifetime of the _device_', not 'supported lifetime of the operating system'.

    5. Someone Else Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Lifetime of the device.

      So the lifetime of the device means until they drop support.

      At which point, I expect a dramatic uptick in Linux distro installs...

  8. Pen-y-gors

    Windows as a subscription

    Obviously m$ are aiming to move Windows to a subscription model, as they are already doing with Office. To be fair, from a business point of view I can see their point. The present model is that we buy a copy of Win XP/Win 7, and give M$ £100 or whatever. We then want to keep using that software for 5-10 years (or more), and expect M$ to keep it updated and safe for the entire period, for no extra payment. From the manufacturer's point of view, that really sucks as a business model!

    If they move to subscriptions, then I could probably learn to live with it, provided the annual sub is roughly the old one-off cost divided by 10. I'd pay £10 a year for a clean and up-to-date and secure Windows 10.

    Of course if it's priced like Office (Office 2013 about £120 for ever, Office 365 £80 p.a.) then they can go and fornicate with themselves.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Windows as a subscription

      I'd pay £10 a year for a clean and up-to-date and secure Windows 10.

      You say that like it's a possibility.

    2. HipposRule

      Re: Windows as a subscription

      M$, how droll and original and so last century.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple’s iOS platform is the furthest ahead

    Sorry to tell you this, that's utter BS.

    All iOS versions are not created equal. They all have different levels of functionality depending on the device. It's been suggested by insiders, that some versions of iOS7 were actually still iOS5 on older devices, just running new skin resources, security patches applied, and the version number changed to suit.

    When you work behind closed doors, you can apply as much smoke and mirrors as you like.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple’s iOS platform is the furthest ahead

      Utter bullshit. You're just some lonely fandroid making shit up, and obviously know nothing about software development lifecycles to boot. Do you realize how much work it would be to take iOS 5 and add in "skins", add in all the security patches, add in all the new APIs (that don't have anything to do with new hardware features older phones can't support) and update all the built in apps? Versus the comparatively simple task of making sure iOS 7 which already has all that stuff works on both new and old devices, which of course they do despite your FUD to the contrary. Do you think Linux alone has the magic formula for allowing software to run on 20 year old hardware?

      Obviously the levels of functionality are different on different devices. It isn't as though Apple could update the OS on an iPhone 5 and provide it with Touch ID. That sort of thing is true everywhere, no OS can add support for hardware that doesn't exist. But the lack of that hardware doesn't mean the OS can't still support it, it just detects whether it is there or not and disables that functionality if it is not. No different than Windows 7's 'Aero' GUI disabling the fancy effects if it fails to detect a graphics card that's up to snuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple’s iOS platform is the furthest ahead

        There is big software disparity between devices. Sorry you have been brainwashed.

        Missing software features on iPhone 4

        Panoramic camera mode

        Live camera filter effects

        Slow motion video recording

        3D flyover in maps

        Turn-by-turn navigation



        Siri personal assistant

        Live wallpapers, parallax and translucency effects


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apple’s iOS platform is the furthest ahead

          That doesn't mean the iPhone 4 is still running iOS 5 but reports it is running a newer version. It means those things aren't supported when a newer version of iOS is running on the iPhone 4. Some of that is due to internal hardware deficiencies, some of it is due to Apple choosing to segment the 4 and 4S in some manner since they quite similar and at the time AT&T owners could still get free yearly upgrades Apple was hoping to sell them. They didn't do that for the 5 and 5S, because Touch ID at least provided some real difference between the two, but more importantly AT&T no longer offered the yearly upgrades so now they can let people settle on the two year cadence where they offer major changes to the iPhone.

          Even if you get zero new features from an OS upgrade, you still will want to do it because it closes security holes and adds new APIs that apps can take advantage of. Despite your list of limitations iPhone owners get far more out of upgrades than Android owners do, because most Android phones never can upgrade at all!

  10. Michael Habel

    Bye bye, Windows...

    Hello the Year of the Penguin... Or, will it be another Cat I wonders?

  11. Palpy

    Rolling releases

    I've been using Manjaro, an Arch distro which uses a rolling release model. (It has for a couple of years now, I believe.) Mostly the experience has been stellar; the OS updates seamlessly and quickly.

    That said, of course 1) Linux is not Windows; 2) FOSS development is not closed-shop, proprietary dev; and 3) the Linux ecosystem is vastly different from the hideously complex, gnarled, legacy-burdened mass of code that makes up the historical Windows ecosystem.

    I'm guessing, very tentatively, that Microsoft's rolling-release effort will fail due to the difficulty of using a closed-shop approach to deal with a legacy of equally proprietary software. Much of that software is seen as crucial by many of Microsoft's customers, and hence must not be broken when a new release of the OS comes down the line.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Palpy - Re: Rolling releases

      Software can and will be broken and there's nothing MS customers can do about it because they are and they will be a Microsoft shop. Complaining amounts to nothing more than wasting precious oxygen.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: Rolling releases

      "Much of that software is seen as crucial by many of Microsoft's customers"

      What worries me is how much software will be seen as crucial by *Microsoft*, so critical to Microsofts plans users aren't allowed to remove or control it. Or how much "as a service" really means enhanced "lockin" to Microsoft, their cloud and the MS products I have no need of.

      1. Palpy

        You better you better you bet.

        The interests of Microsoft's strategic planners don't always coincide with user needs. That's clear. And while user lock-in is a losing proposition for users, it's a money-maker for the supplier. Until users get so fed up they bolt, that is.

  12. Dan 55 Silver badge

    I should imagine that when people realise that Windows as a Service means MS can pull the rug out from under you whenever they feel like it (you pay monthly, MS push the latest and greatest stuff, and your desktop, browser, office suite, etc... suddenly change to whatever the latest madness from Redmond´s user experience gurus is) they will begin to tire of it.

    Would you as a Office 2003 user like it if it suddenly sprouted a ribbon one moring or as Windows 7 user like it if it suddenly went TIFKAM when you turned it on and you were presented with a start screen?

    It's not going to work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Dan 55

      Never underestimate the resilience of Windows users! When was the last time you heard about a customer rebellion against Microsoft ?

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: @Dan 55

        The American Legal Industry got together about 18 years ago and told MS to sort out the borked Styles and Numbering within Word else they would be off, en-masse, to another word processor.

        There UK legal industry did nod in agreement and said that they would follow but the threat had been made and, guess what, the next version of Word was less borked than before and it made my life that little less like hell.

      2. Michael Habel

        Re: @Dan 55

        When was the last time you heard about a customer rebellion against Microsoft ?

        I guess that would have been 'round the time Windows (h)8 hit...

      3. Richard Plinston

        Re: @Dan 55

        > When was the last time you heard about a customer rebellion against Microsoft ?

        Last time I looked at the XP usage statistics.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Would you as a Office 2003 user like it if it suddenly sprouted a ribbon one moring or as Windows 7 user like it if it suddenly went TIFKAM when you turned it on and you were presented with a start screen?"

      ...or that scanner driver no longer works. Or printer driver. And no, the manufacturer isn't going update it either.

  13. Archaon

    I build my own desktops...

    ...and consequently I support them forever. Therefore I require free upgrades for life please. Kthxbai.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I build my own desktops...

      Tearing out and installing my own desktop is the first thing I do to Windows, although I must note that I can sort of tolerate the Windows 8 start screen even on my QHD screen.

  14. mark jacobs

    Every time our Win XP office PCs updated Windows, they would all switch on the (crap and waste of time) Windows firewall, which I'd have to go round and switch off again (we already have Webroot protecting us). It sounds like Windows 10 is the death knell for all Windows versions.

    1. Michael Habel

      It sounds like Windows 10 is the death knell for all Windows versions.

      We can only live in hope!!

  15. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Windows 10 is Dead. Long live windows 10

    We should really be talking about Windows 365 not that Redmond has Trademarked it.

    (in the US at least)

    Get your subscriptions ready chaps.

  16. Erik4872

    Windows 365 is here?

    It seems like Microsoft is planning on transitioning consumers to a "Windows 365" style subscription where they have to keep paying to use the software. Consumers are used to paying for AV subscriptions and Office 365 now, so I guess they figure it's time to pull the plug on perpetual licensing.

    Businesses on the other hand are probably going to be bullied into buying licenses with Software Assurance, so they're still basically renting the software 365-style. Microsoft will probably make the terms of a perpetual license deal so much less appealing that businesses will just sign up.

    Now, the question is this -- from a systems management perspective -- there's an LTS branch and a CBB branch. Are there going to be, dare I call them, Service Packs that roll up the previous LTS to where the CBB is at that point? Or are LTS customers stuck with zero new features? Or if they choose to install some of the features, are they in some weird unsupported middle ground? Previously, if you took a service pack, it meant taking all the features that went along with it. If they're going to be dribbled out over time, that's going to make for some messy configurations.

    If LTS/CBB is just another term for service pack, we're good. Having a jumping-off point to test applications against is a good thing, and I wouldn't want that point to get 10 years stale...but I also don't want 45 new changes every month breaking things!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Don't see what the hoopla is about New Features

      Businesses don't need new features, they need a stable, reliable environment.

      When they do need a new feature, they'll go and buy an app that does what they need.

      The last thing they need is for the OS vendor to go and change their working environment under the guise of installing something they didn't ask for.

  17. Brian Souder 1


    I have not seen how they are planning to work WSUS into this. Though I would imagine it would not change much.

  18. gz

    As long as they provide Notepad-as-a-service, I'll be ok.

    1. Gray

      As long as they provide Wordpad 365... that'll work.

  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "systems powering hospital emergency rooms, air traffic control towers, financial trading systems"

    Dear God, Microsoft is in Air Traffic Control towers ?

    God help us all.

  20. Necronomnomnomicon

    Just a thought

    Microsoft are saying the free upgrade won't be available to businesses - are they perhaps thinking of making W10 Pro only available on OVA and similar schemes? At the moment we don't subscribe for Windows licences because, frankly, we're a small shop and the Lenovo desktops we buy come with the Pro version that covers our needs. If suddenly we weren't able to just buy a machine and then connect it to the domain, that might force us to pick Linux in place of having to buy Windows twice.

  21. Someone Else Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    OK...let's get this straight....

    Linux Mint...check

    Windows 7 in a VM to run those apps I need that do not have a Linux equivalent (e.g. WaveLab) ...check

    Windows 10 in the bit bucket...check


  22. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Yay subscriptions! (sarcasm)

    First year of Windows 365. One year automatic free subscription with new PC. After that, consumer completely pwned...

    I say bring it. Lets lets get this over with. The tech knowledgeable get it, but until the masses FEEL the pain they wont.

    < sits with copy of Debian on DVD.....waiting... >

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