The statement came from Microsoft employee Jerry Nixon, a self proclaimed ‘developer evangelist’ who stated: "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." If this sounds strange, Microsoft didn't help. The company today stepped forward to defend Nixon’s comment to The Verge saying it was “reflective” of the company’s opinion.
So what is going on? Is Windows 10 really the end? No. Windows is not going anywhere. What is now clearly and undeniably changing, however, is how Microsoft will brand, develop, update and expect us to pay for Windows after Windows 10.
“Windows will be delivered as a service bringing new innovations and updates in an ongoing manner, with continuous value for our consumer and business customers," explained Microsoft in its full statement to the Verge. “We aren’t speaking to future branding at this time, but customers can be confident Windows 10 will remain up-to-date and power a variety of devices from PCs to phones to Surface Hub to HoloLens and Xbox. We look forward to a long future of Windows innovations.”
Extract the marketing speak and what the future appears to be is ‘Windows’ - no version number, just ‘Windows’. This will be a single, homogenous entity powering all hardware Microsoft has and delivering an ongoing stream of updates. These updates may technically carry code numbers or names, but they won’t be heavily flagged and most users will simply see themselves as running ‘Windows’ - a platform which is always the latest software Microsoft has to offer. That means no more XP, 7, 8.1 or 10 and maybe software which runs iOS and Android apps
But now it is becoming increasingly clear that under the new vision of an all encompassing ‘Windows as a service’ this will not and cannot be the case. Or can it?
Microsoft’s wording suggests that in being “the last version of Windows” Windows 10 must transform into the all encompassing ‘Windows’ during its life cycle. If not it wouldn't be the last major version of Windows, the subsequent everlasting ‘Windows’ would be.
So how will Microsoft decide where to draw the line with ‘free’? It is highly unlikely that those who move to Windows 10 within the first year will not be charged for a Windows update, upgrade or major new feature ever again.
Personally I think Microsoft will have a fixed point in mind, perhaps much like Apple AAPL +0.26% does when it draws the line on which devices will get the next major version of iOS. In other words: the software is free until it’s not… so cross your fingers!