I was recently asked why there are so many Windows® 10 offerings, particularly since Microsoft® touted this as an OS which would provide a consistent platform across all devices. When Microsoft originally announced Windows 10, one of their stated goals was to provide a single unified platform for PCs, tablets, phones and other devices, but I don’t believe they ever promised a consistent User Interface (UI), or even identical functionality across all environments. They said Windows 10 would be the final version of Windows, and that it would be continuously updated with feature, performance and security enhancements. One of the goals was to eliminate the fragmentation that existed at the time, where organizations and individuals used multiple operating systems (Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8.x), and to provide a single, standardized OS. It seemed like a good idea, which would hopefully be embraced by users and IT administrators alike, but as we approach the third anniversary since its release (July 29), have they accomplished their goal?
Most would agree that Windows 10 is the best Windows yet, but there isn’t exactly a single unified platform. To be fair, I’m using the term “platform” somewhat selectively, and there is less fragmentation than in the past, but we’re far from a single OS or user experience, and that is likely to continue.
One of the challenges to creating a single OS that is regularly updated is that many environments have legitimate reasons to avoid, or at least postpone updates. Applications and tools that rely upon the OS typically need to be thoroughly tested before deployment, particularly in sensitive environments such as medical, security, or finance. Microsoft accommodates these needs by offering delayed or selective update schedules, and also with enterprise class editions which don’t include some consumer-focused tools such as Microsoft Store and bundled apps. Business and enterprise customers also have networking and other functionality which is not necessary for home or small business users.
Microsoft has a testing methodology which begins with the Windows Insider testing program. Windows Insiders are essentially a group of several million beta-testers. Once the updated code is deemed ready for release, it is automatically installed on Home edition devices. Customers using Professional, Education or Enterprise have limited options governing how, or in some cases, if, they will install the updates.
There are also specialized editions of Windows 10, such as Windows 10 Mobile, IoT Core and Windows 10 S.
As we approach the third anniversary of its release, Windows 10 has been a great success by most standards, but we still don’t have a truly consistent OS that provides the same user experience on all devices and in all environments. It’s not likely that we ever will.