That’s certainly easy on the pocketbook. And it makes getting the latest and greatest version of the operating system easy as well. No need for ugly, messy, disk-based upgrades. It happens automatically over the internet.
There’s only one problem with that approach: There haven’t been any “latest and greatest” features introduced into Windows for quite some time. And don’t be surprised if there never will be again. Under Windows as a service, the operating system gets more stable over time and get patches more quickly.
But gone are the days of looking forward to something new and exciting in Windows. What you see today is essentially what you get tomorrow. I’ll explain why.
Windows 10’s Updates
OneDrive And My People
The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, released in October 2017, tweaked OneDrive, introduced a moderately useful feature called My People that made it a bit easier to communicate with a few selected contacts and failed miserably at trying to link Windows to Android and iOS phones.
Window 10 Timeline
The next one, the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, introduced one interesting new feature, Timeline. It lets you resume your previous activities, but it’s somewhat lame because it works with only a handful of select, Microsoft-created applications.
The best feature of the most recent update, the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, was the moderately useful, powered-up Windows Clipboard. But given that a similar feature was part of Windows more than three decades ago in Windows 1.0, and later killed, it’s not exactly a new idea.
The Next Update
As for the next semiannual upgrade, due out this spring, don’t expect much. The preview builds have so far been underwhelming, including a tweaked Start menu, a new “Light” color theme, and the ability to pause updates for a limited amount of time. Are you popping the champagne corks yet? I didn’t think so.
Windows 10 Sets
Is Microsoft not working on anything for Windows that we might call major? Well, back in 2017, it announced that it was bringing a truly innovative feature to Windows 10 called Sets. Sets would put tabs into applications, not just browsers, and let you create documents that would combine multiple apps — for example, a Word document that had browser tabs on it for accessing any online research you’ve done.
But announcing a killer feature is one thing, and delivering it is another thing entirely. And Microsoft has included the Sets feature in multiple previews of its twice-annual Windows updates, only to later pull it before release because Microsoft couldn’t get it to work properly. It won’t be in this spring’s update, either. It will be of little surprise if it never makes it into Windows 10.
Future of Windows 10 Updates
Why is this happening? One commentator, on Ars Technica, faults the process that Microsoft uses to develop Windows. He points out that Windows has a massive, complicated codebase, some of it ancient by tech standards. Before the Windows-as-a-service days, new versions of Windows saw release every two to three years. That gave the company more time to develop and test new features.
With twice-annual updates, the development process has been compressed into as little as one-sixth the time previously available. That makes it far more difficult to introduce significant new features that are bug-free.
Focus On Cloud
That’s true. But it’s not the primary reason there may never be a killer feature introduced into Windows. The real reason has more to do with business than with the development process. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has made a concerted effort to move Windows away from the core of the company’s business.
He’s moved Microsoft’s focus toward the cloud and is also making sure Microsoft’s products are more open and work with other technologies, including open source, iOS , and Android related development. That means Microsoft spends more development time on those capabilities than on introducing new Windows features.
Resurgent Microsoft And Future
It produced spectacular results, with a resurgent Microsoft at times topping the list of the world’s most valuable public companies. So expect Windows to continue to become more reliable and stable over time, as it has been getting under the Windows-as-a-service strategy. And expect useful tweaks here and there.
But don’t look for any new killer features. Under Microsoft’s successful pivot to the cloud, there’s no reason to develop and release them.