On December 8th, owners of the Lumia 950 received and Over-The-Air update to the Windows 10 running on their phones. While updates like this may seem common place, this one was special because the software came directly from Microsoft with no intervention by the mobile service carriers. While iOS users are able to update their phone OS directly from Apple with iTunes, an OTA update has long required carrier approval. What’s more, carriers have usually wanted to add their own mix of utilities and spyware into the updates and as such are slower to roll out new versions which often include security and bug fixes.
Android is the perfect example. This image from Applause.com shows that as of December 7th, 2015 the most common version of Android is KitKat (aka Android 4.4) which was released in October of 2014. What’s more alarming is that more than a third of handsets in use are using a version that is even older than that. The problem is that with the widespread use of Android across thousands of devices, Google has lost control of the ability to keep devices running it’s mobile OS updated. This month’s update of Windows 10 for Mobile is Microsoft’s first success in taking back some amount of control of its OS from the carriers.
But mobile phones aren’t the only instance of Windows-as-a-Service. Microsoft gave away their Windows 10 OS to anybody who could upgrade automatically and in many cases performed the upgrade without explicit user involvement. This move wrankled a few users but has now built a platform with more than 110 million PCs and tablets running Windows 10. Microsoft is pushing out updates to their OS directly with the latest consumer update being version 1511 (November Update). While enterprises can exercise some control over releases, it’s clear that Microsoft is trying hard to make sure they don’t end up in another Windows XP quagmire.
This shift to keep Windows 10 up-to-date is good for security and good for developers. It means that we can take advantage of new OS features and be reasonably certain that a large number of users will have the upgrades required to run them. It also means that bugs will be fixed sooner rather than later. And most importantly it means that users will have an OS that is fresh and engaging making our investment in development on that platform less of a risk than it has been in years. And that is a good thing.