Will Windows 10 be the last Windows OS?

While Microsoft has indicated that the Windows 10 build will remain indefinitely, customers may still wonder whether Windows 10 will be the last Windows OS release or if there is another version in store for the future. Learn about the history of Windows and what it may mean for the future.

Microsoft developer Jerry Nixon famously called Windows 10 “the last version of Windows,” but now that Windows 10 is five years old, it is difficult to know if this is still true.

Whether Windows 10 is the final iteration of Windows OSes or not is a difficult question to answer, and customers may wonder if there will ever be a Windows 11. These questions are only more relevant as some have grown frustrated with the strategy surrounding Windows 10 and its update structure.

These questions don’t have simple answers, but learning how Microsoft came to this approach may give Microsoft customers a better idea of what they can expect.

The history of Windows OSes

Looking at the Windows timeline, there is a historic pattern of updates that Microsoft held to for a long time. With the release of Windows 10 in July 2015, Microsoft broke a more than 25-year update practice that applied to Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and others such as Windows ME and Vista — though they were such failures that Microsoft backed out of them.

With the old approach, Microsoft would fully support a version of Windows for about three years. Then, Microsoft would release a new version of Windows and the old version would remain in support for a few years, and it would lose mainstream support after a few more years. For customers that needed longer terms of support for legacy applications or hardware, they could pay Microsoft a premium fee for extended support. In addition, each new version of Windows had version updates called Service Packs, which contained bug fixes, security patches and feature improvements. 

This practice caused major headaches for the IT staff who had to perform a complete rollout of a new OS and Service Packs to all devices every few years. Many users hated getting a new version of Windows and having to learn new features, a new UI and so forth, which caused a learning curve and poor productivity every few years.

This approach wasn’t easy for Microsoft either. Like other software vendors, Microsoft continued fighting to keep software pirates at bay, and Microsoft began licensing schemes and activation processes to guarantee everyone using Windows had paid for it. When people accessed Windows for free via workarounds to evade licensing costs, it hurt Microsoft’s ability to maintain a stable platform. Many software vendors resolved the piracy issue by moving to a subscription-based cloud service, but the OS can’t be in the cloud — except for organizations that opt for virtual desktops. [ … ]

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