To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Is Windows 10 really the “last version of Windows?”

Windows 10 desktop

What will happen now that Microsoft no longer plans to release major updates to Windows?

Will there ever be a Windows 11? Perhaps not. This isn’t another daft branding exercise, like the decision to skip Windows 9 and head straight for 10. Instead, Microsoft is suggesting a fundamental change to the way Windows will be updated in the future.

Gone, it seems, are the staging-post releases we’ve grown used to. The company won’t spend years building up to the next major version of the operating system. Instead, it’s planning lots of iterative releases, with features gently rolled out to users as and when they are ready. Google has slipped out 42 versions of its Chrome browser in its six-year history, but nobody talks of using Chrome 35 or Chrome 39: they just use “Chrome”, which is quietly updated in the background. Microsoft hopes that we’ll soon come to regard Windows 10 as just Windows, with the version number little more than a meaningless label.

Everything you need to know about Windows 10

“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,” Microsoft’s Jerry Nixon told attendees at the company’s Ignite conference last week, when asked whether the development team were moving onto Windows 11 ahead of this summer’s big launch.

Microsoft later all but confirmed that Windows 11 isn’t on the roadmap. “Recent comments at Ignite about Windows 10 are reflective of the way 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,” the company told 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.”

Name, not a number

Microsoft might like to think of Windows as a name, not a number, but it will still have to find some way of discriminating between different versions of its operating system. There will come a point, for example, when hardware that was once capable of running Windows 10 will no longer be able to support all of its new features. Version numbers allowed Microsoft to draw a line in the sand, stating that only hardware that met that version’s minimum specification could run the new software. It also allowed Microsoft to retire old versions, like it did with Windows XP last year. If everything from here on is just “Windows”, Microsoft’s going to have find some other way of telling users their hardware isn’t up to scratch, which could get messy.

Businesses will also be nervous of an operating system that is constantly updating. Big firms will roll out a single operating system image to thousands of machines, having previously ensured that it’s compatible with all their hardware and business-critical applications. They simply won’t want new features being added every couple of months, as it increases the risk of something going wrong. 

The smart money is on Microsoft moving to a system similar to that operated by Linux distros such as Ubuntu, where the company releases a “stable” version of Windows for businesses that’s updated only once every couple of years, whilst consumers are drip-fed the continual updates. 

One thing’s for sure: Microsoft’s going to need to make all of this clear before it convinces anyone to upgrade to Windows 10. Consumers won’t be happy if, having taken the “free” upgrade from Windows 7/8 to Windows 10, they soon find their hardware can’t cope with new features. Businesses will need even more convincing that Microsoft isn’t going to leave them high and dry. 

Read more