A recent leak suggests that Microsoft is about to add yet another Windows 10 product edition to an already crowded lineup. Microsoft, stop the insanity. This is one area where Apple does it right. And you do not.
As you may know, most Microsoft has long offered multiple Windows product editions, each with its own dubious and arbitrary list of features. This firm adds this complexity and confusion because it has had success charging customers more for the editions that include more features. The tactic was so successful, in fact, that the Office team copied this strategy as well.
But this strategy never made sense for customers. And it has led to some of the more embarrassing moments in Windows history, like the stripper OS called Windows Starter Edition and the terrible “Aero Basic” user interface inflicted on users of Windows Vista Home Basic.
Today, most individuals only have to contend with two Windows 10 product editions: Home and Pro. These are differentiated in the most haphazard of ways, with Pro picking up features that make the most sense in businesses, not with professionals. But there are other Windows 10 product editions too, of course.
For example, Windows 10 Enterprise is a superset of Windows 10 Pro and it is available to Volume Licensing customers only; the biggest benefit, really, is that these customers have greater control over how and when updates are applied. And Windows 10 Education, confusingly, is aimed at teachers, students, and school staff and administrators, and it, too, is only available through volume licensing.
Then, last month, Microsoft finally announced Windows 10 S, a product edition that started life as Windows 10 Cloud, and is aimed at people who don’t actually want to run any of the applications that make Windows popular. Instead, it will run only Store apps.
(And let’s not forget about the N variants of most of these product editions, which drops support for legacy media functionality. On second thought, let’s forget about the N variants of most of these product editions.)
This product lineup is already too complex and pointlessly confusing. So Microsoft, obviously, is going to make it even more complex and confusing by adding yet another product edition.
Called Windows 10 Pro for Advanced PCs (or Windows 10 Pro for Workstation, depending on which leaked Microsoft documentation you read), this stupid new thing is optimized for compute and graphics intensive workloads. There will be an N variant, of course, because why not.
Here’s my advice.
Drop the product editions and ship a single thing called, wait for it, Windows 10. Differentiate the capabilities via licensing, which will unlock enterprise-specific functionality for the businesses that are paying more. Too simple?
And since this is 2017 and I can already hear the idiots revving up to defend this situation despite the fact that it benefits exactly zero human beings including themselves, just stop. Windows 10 isn’t a growth machine, it’s a legacy business that needs to be made simpler, not more complex, in order to slow the decline. Adding product editions now simply reminds customers how out of touch this strategy is with today’s mobile first, cloud first world. And this will hasten, not slow, the move away from traditional PCs.
In other words, don’t defend the indefensible. This is stupid. Period.