What Is Microsoft Up To?

Category: Windows

Microsoft is not noted for shaking up the tech industry, except when it’s not supposed to (think of the disastrous Fall 2018 Update). The company whose Windows operating system powers the vast majority of the world’s PCs is about as “disruptive” as a public utility… something it aspires to be, after a fashion. But in recent weeks hints of Microsoft’s future plans have cropped up, and they could cause disruptions of the status quo. Here's what you need to know...

How Will Microsoft be Changing in 2019?

Microsoft definitely shook up lots of people in 2018, but the biggest news was the fallout from the buggy Windows 10 October Update that left some users with the dreaded "blue screen of death" and others experiencing deleted documents. I wrote about this in my article [WARNING] Don't Click This Button!. Microsoft had to take the unprecedented step of pulling the update from their servers until they could fix the problems. On November 13, 2018, Microsoft re-released the Windows 10 update (also referred to as Version 1809) and as far as I can tell, it's still slowly rolling out.

So we're hoping for better things (and improved quality control) in 2019. First, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed during a January media event that a consumer version of the “Microsoft 365” Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription is coming in 2019. The business edition, available since mid-2017, includes licenses and maintenance of Windows 10, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility+Security. The consumer version will likely look similar in terms of what you can do with it, although it may include non-work things such as gaming-related services; after all, “Microsoft 365" should include everything Microsoft offers.

Before I go on, let's clear up 365 possible points of confusion. Microsoft has a long history of confusing and constantly morphing product names. The email program "Microsoft Internet Mail" was bundled with Windows 95, and was renamed as "Outlook Express," which turned into "Windows Mail," which turned into "Windows Live Mail." Meanwhile, Hotmail became Outlook.com. But there's still a thing called "Outlook" which is not the same as "Outlook Express" or "Outlook.com". And that's just one example. Microsoft's antivirus nomenclature has been equally confusing over the years.

How will Microsoft change in 2019?

So when Microsoft announces that they're working on a consumer version of “Microsoft 365" what they really mean is that they're going to add a bundle of goodies to “Office 365" and try to convince customers who are already paying $100 a year, to pay another $50 or so. The new, improved Office 365 may include a free upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro, some extra security features, and upgraded messaging tools. It may even get a new name, we'll see.

Today, most consumers get Windows 10 and other Microsoft software by buying new hardware. Tomorrow, you may buy a Microsoft 365 subscription that includes financing for the hardware on which the SaaS runs. Microsoft dipped a toe into this business model in 2018 with its “Surface All Access” and “Xbox All Access” programs. Surface All Access, for instance, lets shoppers choose a Surface tablet or laptop, accessories, and an Office 365 subscription. The monthly cost ranges between $24.99 with a Surface Go tablet and $54.96 with the flagship Surface Pro 2 laptop. There’s no interest charged if you make monthly payments on time.

There are two catches to this program. First, you can get it only at a physical Microsoft Store, of which there are only 116 in the whole world. (Perhaps they should partner with Starbucks, which seems to have 116 stores in every city.) Second, you have to apply for a Dell Preferred Account, offered by Dell Financial Services. I guess Microsoft is not ready to get into the consumer financing business yet, but contracted with Dell for credit services during this “All Access” experiment.

There’s no reason “All Access” must be limited to Microsoft hardware. One day, you might visit a Microsoft Store and bring home a Dell, HP, or other computer brand. You might even get an Android phone, but I doubt any iPhones will be available. You could even build your own machine and bring it to life with a tailored “All Access” subscription purchased online. Whatever hardware you get, Microsoft will be there too.

Ch-ch-ch Changes

That’s just the way Microsoft would like things to be, so you may be forced to turn and face the strange new world of software-as-a-service and hardware bundles. Windows’ share of the desktop computer market peaked years ago and now stands just over 81%. (Apple is second with 13.5% of the desktop market.) Whether this “All Access” model can reverse that decline remains to be seen. But Microsoft is definitely moving away from the concept of buying software, to a subscription model.

I started this piece with a dig at Microsoft's quality control failures in 2018. The Windows operating system and Microsoft Office have traditionally been black box, or proprietary software. That means users can run the software, but the public is not allowed to see the underlying code. That's understandable from the perspective of protecting trade secrets and market share, but it seems that the size and complexity of these systems has outpaced Microsoft's ability to ensure that a well-tested, quality product is delivered.

By contrast, Linux, Libre Office, and other popular software is developed with an "open source" philosophy. The source code is developed by skilled collaborators, and is available for anyone who wants to see it. This approach allows independent programmers and security researchers to examine the code and find problems faster than the proprietary model. I mention this here, because rumors are flying that Microsoft will be using open source components to improve security in Windows Core OS, which is the platform on which future versions of Windows will be built. So that's a hopeful sign.

What's your opinion on the "software as a service" model, and what's on your wishlist for Windows? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "What Is Microsoft Up To?"

(See all 41 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

22 Jan 2019

18 years ago I was doing the SaS model with company intranets and extranets. Every location of the company ran company developed browser based software which was very efficient both to centrally develop and support - no onsite PC setups nor software installs required to deploy. I look back on that as a major achievement under my watch, but I do not look on the current push of the SaS model with the cloud to the individual the same way.

Posted by:

pink jimi photon
22 Jan 2019

jesus, bob, the news keeps getting worse and worse. i refused the win 10 "upgrade" and will continue to do so... i don't wabnna run "apps" for a damn phone on my computer, and i expect my programs i've relied on for years to work. microsoft gets more invasive, and their entire operation gets dumbed down every release to stuff that's fine for the millenials, but try and do audio on one of these modern os's? fuggeddaboudit!
i've had MS delete files of mine, including stuff i created myself because apparently they felt i didn't have the "rights" to it.

i am seriously thinking about abandonging windows completely and going ubuntu all the way. the learning curve is steep, but the dumbing down curve of ms products is something i refuse to deal with much longer.

seems every other update they break something new. i'll stick with win7 for now, and leave xp on my important pc's, even tho i can't allow them online. beats windows determining that the stuff i created doesn't belong to me and it dissappearing.

talk about a suckload of suckitude. thanks for letting me vent!!!

Posted by:

22 Jan 2019

MS needs to be broken up because it has become a monopoly and is very close to violating anti-trust laws. Maybe if more people switch to open source and free programs, MS will slowly die. Win 10 has so much added to it, that it has become bloatware in itself for the most part. Much of what comes with it is stuff I do not want and will not use. Could it be that adding so much to Win 10 has caused the utter mess associated with the October Win 10 update?

Posted by:

Wayne Harrison
22 Jan 2019

It sounds like MS is looking to make this change as a "take it or leave it" choice. Guess what? Goodbye MS - all of our family will be out.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2019

The last time the price went up, I switched to Open Office and never looked back.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2019

I installed one of those linux systems that looks like windows on an old laptop and it is blazing fast and does everything I need it to do. Microsoft may become history at our house.

Posted by:

Eric Nathanson
23 Jan 2019

I've basically given up on Windows. Switched to Linux Mint, but have left a dual boot on my desktop, just in case I need to run something that dosn't work well on Linux (hmm, not much, only really to use SmartSwitch from Samsung to backup my Samsung phones and tablets).
I find Windows slow, hammers my hard disk, takes forever to start up, many times the updates are extremely slow and sometimes fail. In comparison to Linux - Linux is heaps faster, easier to use, more stable and has lots of open source software. I use LibreOffice and also WPS Office - as good as Windows Office, if not better.....
Sorry for the vent, just frustrated...

Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
23 Jan 2019

I'm still using Windows 7 on my main computer, and have no desire whatsoever to "upgrade". (I still have to deal with the problems my wife has with Windows 10 on her computer.) And I have even less desire to depend on an internet connection to run my principal programs. And I certainly don't want to pay a monthly subscription fee for anything. If the time comes when all of the Windows Office programs are only available in the cloud and for a monthly fee, I'll just switch to Libre Office. And if Microsoft becomes too oppressive, I'll bite the bullet and switch to Linux.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2019

WOW ... I do wish that I had known how bad the Fall 2018 Update was from Microsoft!!! It literally screwed my PC!!! I had to re-install Windows 7 Pro to get it to running again. I did lose some important documents and receipts of products I am or was using in Windows 10 Pro.

My Win 7 Pro PC has been proven to be a Genuine Microsoft Product, so I could go back to Windows 10 Pro ... I am just not that sure that I want to ... To be very honest about it. I do like Windows 10, especially the Pro version. However, with this latest update fiasco ... I am really mad about what happened to my PC with the update!

Programs and paperwork were going missing or simply gone, after the update!!! I thought that I had gotten some nasty malware, but my PC was scanned and nothing showed up. I was using Bitdefender Total Security and trust me, that puppy was right on with scans and truly protected my PC.

However, in the meantime, I lost all of my information that I had even purchased Bitdefender Total Security. This is when I do need Cloud Service, to save my important documents ... Just for incidents like this ... Having to re-install Windows.

I can honestly blame Microsoft Windows 10 upgrade for my woes.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2019

Thanks for keeping us posted, Bob, on the shenanigans of MS and the Master Race of Silicon Valley who seem out to control the world by taking over our own machines to rake in more money. Then they can buy more politicians and gain more control? Like Bob Duncan I started on computer in 1985 and this Damn Yankee from New England is about to join the revolution and, even at 87, start the turn to Linux. Doubt it will be any more difficult than learning to manage DOS. Will you still be our guru?

Posted by:

23 Jan 2019

Currently I'm testing Deepin OS (yes, I'm aware it's a Chinese distro!) on a fully bootable USB3. I've tested dozens of distros this way, trying to find the one I like best and get used to Linux. I plan to eventually dual boot Windows 10 with a Linux distro, and then make the complete switch to Linux. So far, I like Ubuntu (Gnome)the best and it's the most solid I've tested on my computer. Deepin is very impressive and the best-looking Operating System I've ever used.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2019

Can someone please recommend a source for the "dual-boot" process so I can learn how to do it myself? I understand the concept but have no idea what's involved. Thanks. [I want to keep my Win 7 and be able to switch to Linux Mint.]

Posted by:

24 Jan 2019

Butch, I recommend starting out with Ubuntu 18.04 or 18.10. Ubuntu is probably the easiest Linux distro to dual boot, as it is pretty much foolproof and will do most of the work for you. I do suggest that you make an image of your Windows 7 install, just in case you want to do away with Linux at a later date. Here's a good article that should get you up and running: https://www.lifewire.com/ultimate-windows-7-ubuntu-linux-dual-boot-guide-2200653 Any questions, email me at info [at] reedconsulting.pro

Posted by:

24 Jan 2019

Butch, when writing my previous response, I forgot you had mentioned Linux Mint. Mint is a derivative of Ubuntu and, thus, very easy to install, too. I prefer Ubuntu because I really prefer the Gnome desktop. Good luck!

Posted by:

24 Jan 2019

I was a consultant (Chip Designer) at Sun Micro-systems (now Oracle) for 11 years (Oct 1993-May 2004). Back in those days, I ran Windows-Vista on my home PC. I learned about "Open Office" (FREE SUITE OF OFFICE TYPE PROGRAMS) and have been running it on all my Windows machines for the last 20+ years. Why get ripped off when there's a viable alternative?

Posted by:

24 Jan 2019

This may be a pie-in-the-sky idea, but I think that Microsoft should make the Windows UI a Linux GUI for the Desk-top, or mobile device, then develop their own Linux Distribution to run beneath it.

This could cut Microsoft's cost of operation because they have a few million sets of eyes looking at their code (just like any other distribution), at no additional cost. This should vastly improve the security of the OS (and may help Linux security models too if Microsoft makes their anti-virus software open-source).

Finally, users get Windows for free, and Microsoft sells support on the subscription plan as they are trying to do now.

This does sound like a pipe-dream (or pie-in-the-sky), but if it could happen, it should be a win for all, parties involved (the Linus community, the Windows user (both private and business), and Microsoft.



Posted by:

26 Jan 2019

How far down the road before Windoz changes their plan again? For better or worse. Windoz phones were easy for me to use. Then- bye bye Windoz phone users.
And Windoz operating systems are like the movie, tv, and music industry. As long as you pour more money into them you can participate. It means nothing that you bought media previously in many formats.
Well i've had enough. Learn to partition with Linux for dual booting with Windoz 7 or XP. Bob has a Linux section online. Is it up to date? Linux distributions don't require a lot of learning if you aren't using them for intensive computing. Many of you (me too) learned to operate a cell phone.
Just remember to always back up your operating system and folders, files. In case you mess up an install. With backups of your computer, you can always wipe the computer hard drive, starting over, install Windoz, then Linux as dual boot. Though re-installs require a lot of time to do.

Posted by:

27 Jan 2019

A word of caution....Redmond has finally got me lookin' at a Linux distro after a loooong love hate relationship. long story short...if you duel boot, be sure to backup/clone/image.Tried Mint w/ Win7 duel boot...got rid of Mint...bye-bye Win7.
Yes, I had a clone.

Posted by:

Pete in NC
27 Jan 2019

I agree with some other posters here, Linux works great, even on my dinosaur computers. If MS breaks my newest machine, I know what to fix it with!

Posted by:

28 Jan 2019

ut oh...does that mean that those phone calls that I always thought were nuisance calls about my Microsoft license expiring were actually a forewarning?!?

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