Does it make sense for Microsoft to continue to release consumer and enterprise versions of Windows simultaneously, as the company speeds up its product delivery pace?
Maybe there should be different cadences for different customer groups.
That possibility was raised by Terry Myerson, the Microsoft Executive Vice President in charge of the company's unified operating-system engineering group, during his remarks at the Credit Suisse 2013 Technology Conference on December 4.
Myerson noted that the needs of consumers, who tend to be interested in having their operating systems update on their own on a quicker basis, are different from those of IT pros, who may prefer policies that control the pace of updates. Myerson said it may not be the best strategy for the consumer and professional flavors of a particular Windows release to hit the market at the exact same time, going forward.
Windows Millennium Edition (ME) was the last version of Windows client using the Windows 95 code base. After Windows ME, which shipped in 2000, Microsoft released its subsequent consumer and "pro" versions of Windows simultaneously.
Microsoft execs still haven't ever said officially (as far as I recall) that the company's plan of record is/was to deliver a new version of Windows every year. They have said they planned to deliver new releases more rapidly, as evidenced by the release of Windows 8.1 a year after the company shipped Windows 8.
Microsoft execs have not gone public with their planned roadmap for whatever follows Windows 8.1. However, I've heard the next Windows deliverable will be a Windows 8.1 Update 1 release around the spring of 2014 that is meant to bring Windows and Windows Phone programming interfaces more in line with one another. After that, my sources have said, Microsoft plans to deliver a new version of Windows which will be part of the next wave, codenamed "Threshold," around the spring 2015 timeframe.
Some IT pros have not been appreciative of Microsoft's more rapid release pace, noting that new versions of Windows require substantial testing and planning before they are deployed widely across the company. If Microsoft does end up releasing the "pro" versions of Windows less frequently than the consumer ones in the future, I'm sure a number of business users would be happy.
(There's no word what Microsoft is planning/thinking about the pace of Windows Server releases. The Windows Server team, following Microsoft's July reorg, sits with the Cloud and Enterprise group, not the unified Windows team. Microsoft execs haven't said whether Windows Server releases will continue to be delivered in sync with client in the future, as they have been for the past decade-plus or more.)
During his Credit Suisse appearance, Myerson emphasized that the unified operating system team's goal is to build "one platform that powers all our devices."
This doesn't mean one flavor of Windows for all purposes (embedded, tablet, phone, PC, console), however, he acknowledged.
"Each form factor requires a unique, tailored experience," he emphasized. Yet all of these form factors will be able to take advantage of a common set of cloud services, he added.
(That sounds like "one core, many SKUs," to me.)
And for those wondering whether Myerson might have made it to the finals in terms of the Microsoft CEO lottery, Myerson jokingly assured the Credit Suisse audience that "the new CEO will not be me."
Update (December 5): Here's exactly what Myerson said on the different cadence topic (from a transcript of his remarks):
"And with the consumer versions of our products and the enterprise versions of our products, or the professional versions of our products, we will be focusing on serving each of those customers and delighting them. And there may be different cadences, or different ways in which we talk to those two customers. And so 8.1 - there's 8.1 and there's 8.1 Pro, and they both came at the same time, it's not clear to me that's the right way to serve the consumer market. It may be the right way to continue serving the enterprise market."