When Microsoft first announced that Windows 10 would be free, conspiracy theories abounded. The company was using this, the theory went, to drive Windows 7 and 8.1 users to upgrade. Later, it would announce massive monthly prices or conquer the world with lizard people or something (this part of the theory always got a little vague). The point was, Microsoft was going to stab us all in the back and charge a ton of money for Windows 10.
Well, today we’ve got some good news and bad news. The good news is, Windows 10 is still free. It’s going to remain free. The big “Microsoft wanted to convert us all to paid monthly Windows lemmings,” remains unrealized. The bad news is, Microsoft is reportedly preparing to introduce a new capability it calls “Microsoft Managed Desktop,” in which all of your lifecycle management is handled remotely by Microsoft for a monthly fee, according to ZDNet. The report said the reason MS is making this change is in part because its IT customers are unhappy with the company’s demand for twice-yearly update cycles that tend to result in an enormous amount of bugs and wreak havoc on IT deployment schedules.
At ComputerWorld, Stephen J. Vaughan-Nichols notes that the MMD is essentially “desktop as a service,” and that it’s part of a push to bridge the gap between conventional thin-client services and a more conventional OS installation. To avoid the latency of a thin client, most of the OS and capabilities would still be hosted locally.
It’s not clear if Microsoft will ever bring this feature to the consumer space. For now, it’s an enterprise-only capability. But there’s no indication that such lifecycle management will create any kind of value or positive experience from consumers. It’s hard to see how the company could change that. Microsoft’s big idea for improving help in Windows 10 was to shove everyone out to the web to use Bing for questions. It opted to kill the QA departments that used to handle Windows development. It decided to stop publishing details of patches in KB articles because supposedly people didn’t want that information. (This decision was later rolled back).
In short, Microsoft acts like a company that views personal PCs as a botheration and annoyance rather than a market — and so it’d prefer to monetize them more effectively and on an ongoing basis as opposed to investing in actually improving the platform. Hopefully, this is one experiment that’ll be confined to Windows enterprise, because there’s no chance we’re paying a monthly fee for the privilege of using our own systems.