When Windows 10 Will Be Released (And How To Plan For It)

The Window 10 technical preview continues to chug along, and while we don't have an official release date for the finished software, it's widely assumed that it will appear before the end of 2015. What milestones can we expect along the way, how can businesses begin planning to make the shift, and what traps should they avoid?

Gartner analyst Michael Silver offered a wide-ranging discussion of the future of Windows during a presentation at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Melbourne. "Microsoft we think has been in trouble for a little while on the client and Office side, though their revenues don't really show it," Silver said. "Windows 8 was not MS's shining moment, and certainly they need to recover from that."

"Windows 8 was a bit of a problem for Microsoft, though the problems with Windows 8 were a lot different than the problems with Vista. Windows 8 wasn't unstable, it was just misconceived -- Microsoft was just a little bit arrogant. It made customers feel stupid because they couldn't work it any more."

Users have stuck with Windows because of legacy applications and familiarity, but that's not helpful to Microsoft when it tries to persuade companies to migrate to newer versions. "Legacy is their best benefit and their worst enemy," Silver said. "It keeps people locked in but it also keeps people from upgrading."

As a result, Silver is predicting a range of strategies to persuade people to update to Windows 10. We already know Microsoft is offering free licences for hardware manufacturers producing low-cost options. That may also extend to upgrades for consumers -- but Silver is predicting that won't apply to enterprise users of Windows 10. "We think they'll give you free upgrades to some extent. My guess is Windows Home will be free, Windows Professional maybe, Windows Enterprise definitely not."

Surprisingly, Silver also suspects we haven't seen the last of Windows RT, the cut-down version of Windows which only runs "modern" apps and which has largely been restricted to the non-Pro models of Microsoft's Surface tablet. "You will likely see some sort of a tablet device with the core services layers that just runs the universal apps. It won't run that half-baked Windows legacy subsystem because they had to run Office that way. You may very well end up with a tablet that looks like a Windows RT device." (Running Office is no longer an issue as Microsoft is planning a Modern version of that, and customers can also sign in via the browser.)

In the long term, most businesses can expect to be using subscription-based services such as Office 365 (and its rivals), an approach which may also influence how Windows is licensed. "If you're not paying subscriptions today to Microsoft, be warned: over the next 5-8 years, you will be. This is inevitable."

Silver suggests that we won't see a consumer previews of Windows 10 until early next year, as releasing it any earlier would further flatten PC sales. His guess is that the main release will be available by the end of 2016.

The other major change that is likely is a shift to how updates are rolled out. Microsoft automatically updates consumer PCs (and Office 365), but that doesn't work in larger enterprises, which need to ensure apps are compatible. The change is likely to be to a two-tiered cadence: consumers are continually updated, but enterprise users have a stable "long term servicing" release which only sees urgent security patches, with other updates rolled in at a more leisurely pace. "Consumers will continue to be given monthly updates, but these may be business-optional," Silver said.

Eventually, that pace might speed up. "Currently, there are two years after a release before enterprise adopts it. Microsoft is trying to change that, but it won't happen in the Windows 10 time frame."

Silver also points out a lurking trap: it's only four years until support for Windows 7 finishes (in January 2020). Companies which have shifted to Windows 7 but avoided 8 may find themselves having to move to Windows 10. "There will be two years between Windows 10 rolling out and Windows 7 end of life," Silver pointed out. "All your Win32 apps should work. That doesn't mean your vendors are going to support them running on Windows 10."

The biggest issue is apps that rely on being delivered via Internet Explorer. "As of January 2016, IE 11 will be the only supported version You have just a little bit more than a year to get off IE 8, 9 and 10."

Throughout this week, Lifehacker is covering Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2014 live from the Gold Coast, bringing you practical tips and advice for running business IT more effectively.
Check out all our stories from the event.


Comments

    After using almost all ms operating systems from 3.1 upwards and getting bitten by some (Vista, 8.1) I'm in no hurry to upgrade. Especially with tying your product registration to your motherboard serial. I know you can ring them and get it sorted as I have, but it's a hassle I don't really want to go through. And with in the past getting pci pass through in Linux with vmware once win 8.1 gets old I don't know if I ever will buy another version of Windows again.

      What, you never tried Win 1.0 thru to 3.0?
      Man, they were dogs!

      Last edited 21/11/14 5:35 pm

      There was nothing wrong with Vista, 8 or 8.1 or even ME.

      I'm probably the only person in the world to have never had an issue with them.

        I thought I was the only one!

        ME ran fine for me the whole time I was at uni, and the free copy of Baldur's Gate that came with it ensured I didn't waste ME's power on study.

        Vista was just woefully slow.
        8 to 8.1 I had drivers work in 8 but not 8.1 or have to uninstall and reinstall after upgrade. when you upgrade I lost my dynamic and hardlinks. I should be able to download the update in 2-3 hours going by my adsl speed in general use, takes 1 day plus to. Twice in 8.1 Windows didn't shut down properly and would not recover. Wouldn't recognize my Windows disk a a installation disk in repair settings so had to fresh reinstall both times.
        The way they handle the library folders in 8/8.1 is different than previous versions so networked libraries can crash program installations mainly Adobe products.
        I had no dramas really with 8, I thought it was a move in the right direction, but with 8.1 there's a lot of changes that sent them backwards.

          Windows 8.1 was woefully slow to download for a few weeks after release.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Windows 8. I have used it both on my desktop and on the Surface Pro 3. It is an absolutely brilliant design for touchscreen displays and mobile devices. But for traditional displays, it still holds its own. Love the app integration and the start menu view. The performance alone makes it a winner over Windows 7.

    Some people need to wake up and not complain over change. IMO, Microsoft got it right with Windows 8 and I hope they don't go backwards due to the complaints of users who are resistant to positive change.

      I agree with everyone here! I never had a problem with most OS'es. Vista was a pain but SP1 fixed all our pain points for an Animation studio of 130+ PC's. 8 and 8.1 complainers are probably the same people who hated Facebook UX changes. If you look at the FB UX 5 years ago, you'd probably be happy that those changes happened.

      I think the issue is two-fold:
      1. As we get older, we get more set in our ways. Fact! I personally feel this has an impact on your social being as well as your ability to accept change - whether its Facebook, Windows or even Android.
      2. Microsoft suck at enabling change. Apple are excellent at introducing smaller features, explaining what those are in simplistic terms and moving on to the next release. I call it "chiseling" where you just chisel at change, rather than the dramatic experience most had with XP -> Vista / 7 (but they were ok with 7) and the 7-8/8.1 change.

      IMHO Vista was the only dog and they dealt with that one well with SP1 and 7 closely behind. ME was a necessity for app compatibility before switching to the NT kernel with XP (or a ploy to make more revenue).

      Food for thought anyway.

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