Conceivably, Windows 365 could offer extended support to customers whose devices have aged out of whatever definition Microsoft eventually applies, or represent one way users running an expected Windows 10 Pro could slow the anticipated monthly updates for consumers to a more manageable three-times annually for businesses.
Both may be possible, said Paul DeGroot, principal at Pica Communications, a consulting firm that specializes in deciphering Microsoft's licensing practices.
"I don't think the notion of a non-versioned Windows where customers pay a modest fee for updates and patches is a bad idea," DeGroot said in an email reply to questions about his take on Windows 10 licensing. "It could not be expensive, but if consumers, from whom Microsoft gets no Windows annuity revenue now, and businesses were billed something less than $20 for each PC and had access to a steady stream of patches and upgrades, it could work well. I'd also make the first three years free."
DeGroot, like many other Windows experts, portrayed businesses as adverse to change and so want nothing to do with a faster cadence. If push came to shove, they might be willing to pay more to go slower than constantly-updated consumers.
"Their favorite features: stability, consistency, supportability," said DeGroot in another email, of businesses. "A continuous stream of updates will be the first thing in the 'Don't Want' column. They hate testing, which is sheer overhead."
Much of that ambivalence towards change stemmed from the declining importance of the operating system. "They actually don't ask much of Windows. About the only jobs Windows has left to do in most corporations is to run Office, including Outlook, and a browser. The vast majority of new apps are browser-based custom apps or Internet hosted," DeGroot said.
A Windows subscription service, although characterized by many Microsoft watchers as unlikely, would fit with the company's strategic pivot under CEO Satya Nadella, who, along with other top executives, has stressed that Microsoft must find new ways to monetize Windows as the firm gives away or heavily subsidizes the OS to OEMS. One of those monetization tactics: Convince customers to pay for ongoing services.
When asked during last month's quarterly earnings call how Microsoft plans to recoup revenue it relinquished by giving away Windows to makers of devices with screens 9-in. and smaller, Nadella ticked off several consumer-grade services.
"The [Windows] Store monetization, Bing monetization, Xbox Live monetization ... are all things that drive monetization for below 9-in.," Nadella said.
If Microsoft does unveil a Windows 365 program, DeGroot didn't expect an announcement any time soon. "Microsoft hasn't really written the [licensing] rules for Windows 10," he said. "If it's like Windows 8, they won't deliver them until two weeks before the product is released."
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