How Will Windows 8 Handle Future Upgrades?

Windows 8 is a dramatic change, that much no one is arguing. There is a lot to like about Windows 8, and there are other things that aren’t so certain. Bridging the gap between a mobile OS and a PC OS certainly brings some new challenges.

The biggest challenge in developing Windows 8 was probably trying to marry the desktop and modern UI in a way that would be usable and useful for both tablet and desktop users. Was Microsoft successful? There is a lot of debate about that. I think they came close, but the journey is far from over when it comes to blending the two worlds.

One area that I’m particularly interested in has to do with upgrades. The mobile world moves at a very different pace than what we’ve seen on the desktop. To understand what I’m talking about, let’s take a look at Android first.

Right now, the current version of Android is 4.1 Jelly Bean.

That being said, most devices are still using Android 4.0 ICS or even Android 2.3. There is a good deal of fragmentation in Android, but one thing you quickly figure out is that these upgrades and updates have rolled out quickly.

In Android you have a “base number”, which right now is 4. You also have a sub-number that represents changes but not enough UI changes to warrant a new number. The third aspect is minor updates, these are represented by a third number. Currently Android 4.1.2.

Now on to iOS. We currently are at iOS 6, which replaced iOS 5.1.1.

With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is preparing to replace the older Windows Phone 7.8.

See the pattern here? Revisions work differently in the mobile world, how will a bridge OS like Windows 8 work?

Consider Service Packs

Service packs introduce speed ups and other sizable improvements, and in this way they aren’t that different from how mobile updates work. Generally though, only a few Service Packs (maybe as many as 4?) come to a version of Windows. Will Windows 8 Service Pack 1 make more sense for advertising or does the idea of 8.1, 8.2 and so forth sound more likely?

Another difference between Windows and other mobile operating systems, is that these free updates can often include UI changes and tweaks. Will the same happen in Windows 8 or will the UI stay the exact same until Windows 9? Also, how will RT work? Will RT devices ever move beyond “Windows 8”, or will they have an upgrade path to Windows RT 9 (or whatever)?

Does this all really matter? Maybe not, but it could have a lot to do with how Windows upgrades are perceived. Sure, techies might talk about things like “I’m looking forward to Windows 7 Service Pack 2”— but average consumers have no clue. They are simply running Windows 7. When the update comes, it is still Windows 7.

In contrast, many (not all) consumers care about things like the difference between Android “Ice Cream Sandwich” and “Jelly Bean”. They are excited to get the updates to the new version. No one is ever that excited about a Windows Service Pack. Is it in the naming convention or how the company represents the updates? I’m curious to how Microsoft will handle this.

Again, it might not be the most important thing but it is just one of the many questions that arise when considering the devices between how we look at mobile and desktop operating systems. What do you think?

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