After the success of offering Microsoft Office as a Service – in the form of Office 365, is it possible for Microsoft to offer its operating system, Windows as a Service? The article tries to find out answers while talking about the possible implementation models. Please note that there are already Microsoft PaaS services such as Azure, but the scope there is limited. I am talking about offering the entire OS as a service that can run in a browser and call upon other programs – local or cloud.
Windows as A Service – The SaaS Model
SaaS stands for Software as a Service. You might already have been using OneDrive Desktop that serves as an example of SaaS (Software as a Service). SaaS is clearly a software provided by some cloud service that you can use as and when required and as long as required. OneDrive desktop, for example, is a software that you download from Microsoft and use to synchronize your files on the cloud with the local storage.
But this is not about OneDrive desktop. The implementation of OneDrive desktop app is much easier compared to offering Windows as a Service. We all know Windows as an operating system. How is it possible to offer an operating system as a service? An operating system is required to fire up a computer. If the service is provided on cloud, how can one boot his or her computer to connect with the service? Will it still be called an operating system? Or will it be an extension of the operating system?
I can assume we have the basic bootable Windows copy on the computers. With that copy, the computer boots up. This basic bootable Windows copy does not have many options as it is not a full-fledged operating system but a compact, or rather, stripped-down version of the Windows operating system.
Once fired, the computer can then connect to the Internet and login into the cloud offering of Windows that has all the other programs necessary to keep a computer running properly and to help in launching other applications. These applications could be local or cloud-based such as Office 365 (Office on the Web: Office Web Applications) and Adobe Creative Cloud etc.
Benefits of Windows As Service (Software As a Service)
To keep it compact, safe and reliable, Microsoft may consider providing a basic, stripped-down version of the Windows operating system in a chip – or as we call it, firmware. If it is firmware, chances of getting any virus or worm will reduce significantly.
We may assume the firmware copy will always be safe and people need not add anti-virus to their computers as the only job of computers would be to boot and to connect to Windows. These will be Windows computers and may not run other operating systems. In turn, the hardware would be light – somewhat like the Netbooks.
The cloud copy of Windows is always updated so users get to use the latest version. As of this date, the latest is Windows 10 and everyone who is using Windows as a Service (SaaS) on Windows computers would be easily working on Windows 10 without having to buy each edition separately and just by paying a monthly fee.
Finally, there will be no piracy. An online version of Windows cannot be stolen and used on individual computers. I cannot see any way people can use it without a subscription. The subscription charges have to be low else people may move to other operating systems.
Restrictions of Windows as a SaaS
Coming back to the SaaS implementation of Windows as a Service, I find it good enough until the user is restricted towards using the Windows-based software only. That is, the default program that comes with the operating system. Of course, Microsoft can add many more programs and I am sure people will welcome that software as they are part of the entire Windows that they can use for a small fee per month. Likewise, the other programs such as Adobe Creative Suite, etc. can also be used by the same computers but they won’t be part of Windows as a Service.
This type of implementation may not provide enough facilities to run local apps such as Photoshop, Adobe Premiere and Corel Draw, etc. We know Adobe too has gone to the cloud and is available in form of SaaS: Adobe Creative Cloud, but consider a person using Corel Draw that needs to be installed on the local computer before it can be used. A typical implementation of Windows as SaaS (Software as a Service) cannot provide that. That is where we need it as a platform.
Windows as a Service – The PaaS Model
PaaS or Platform as a Service sounds much better as an operating system is basically a platform where other programs and apps can run. We can use the same Windows in firmware concept or we can use any kind of operating system to get the computer to boot. Once the boot process is completed, the users can get into the Windows cloud and from there, run programs like Photoshop, Premiere, Corel Draw, etc. Though most of the companies are already going cloud to counter-piracy (that is one of the benefits too: people cannot steal a cloud-based copy of Windows), some are still providing the desktop/laptop/standalone versions.
Now suppose you booted using Linux or the stripped-down Windows version (firmware version that we talked about above). You can then connect to Windows as a Platform for a nominal fee per month, still enjoy the latest versions without having to pay extra for them, and then you can also use desktop/standalone versions of different software by invoking them via Windows as a Platform Service. That sounds good but needs to be worked upon as to how to call a program from your computer to the cloud-based platform. It is possible with some thought and proper implementation of the platform.
One option is to use the cloud versions of other software – such as Adobe Illustrator in place of Corel Draw. So far, Corel has not gone into the cloud but seeing the way Adobe and other creative suites are now part of the cloud, it may soon be a part of the cloud. If part of the cloud, it will be easier to invoke those apps. But if the app is installed on your computer, and you logged on to cloud Windows, there should be a method to be able to use the installed programs.
The basic method of working on a computer is just the interaction between objects in RAM and CPU. Your input, resident programs, etc. go into the RAM and from there, to the CPU, get processed and the results are sent back to RAM from where you can see or print the output. The objects in RAM change as and when needed, to run the installed program but for a large number of programs, the only thing to be taken care of is to carry instructions and data from RAM to CPU and back to RAM. Hence, it is not non-implementable. The Windows on cloud is resident on your RAM for processing the local apps. Possible? Yes.
When I say Windows as a Service, I am talking about the entire operating system as a service and not the likes of Windows Azure or Office 365. A look at both the formats: SaaS and PaaS, makes the latter more feasible for the SaaS part may need Microsoft to enter into an agreement with different software providers to provide their software as a service via the Windows subscription. This article can go on and on with different possibilities, but I will stop it here.
While allowing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, Microsoft has made it clear that version numbers will not matter anymore. Windows will be Windows 10 on all devices. Rather than a standalone operating system that has to be upgraded manually after every major release, Windows 10 will become Windows As A Service. Thus, it becomes like a cloud computing structure – however not the very same. We cannot yet call it Software as a Service (SaaS) literally but the functions of SaaS would be coming to the new operating system.
Windows 10 As A Service
So then, will Windows come as a subscription model? No! Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, Microsoft will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no additional charge.
Microsoft has made it clear that the future of Windows operating system is going to change the entire scenario of how computers work. Along with a range of features in Windows 10, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be same across every device: from PCs to tablets to smartphones. Plus Windows 10 will be a device lifetime service. By device lifetime service, I mean that Microsoft will continue providing updates and upgrades as long as a person is using a device running Windows 10.
Whether a user buys a device preloaded with Windows 10 or upgrades to Windows 10 from 8.1 or Windows 7, he or she will continue receiving updates as long as the device is working. Later, when the user buys or switches to another device, he or she will receive the operating system with the latest features (Read as “the latest edition of Windows 10 with latest updates and upgrades”) and will again continue to receive unlimited support on the new device.
The pricing system will sure change if Microsoft means what it said. Because there won’t be any need of purchasing new Windows releases after Windows 10, they may implement “pay as you go” method as is the case with most Software as a Service (SaaS) systems. Further, the two different marketplaces for Windows 8.1 for PC and Windows 8.1 for phones will merge to offer similar apps on all types of devices. These apps can fetch in revenue as Microsoft plans to import Android apps to the Windows marketplace.
The pricing system for Windows 10 is not clear at the moment, but merging both marketplaces and creating Windows version of Android apps is certain to bring in good revenue as the choice of apps will be wider compared to what it is currently. It will also make it easier for people to migrate from Android to Windows 10 and enjoy the new features of Windows 10, without losing out on their favorite apps.
Now read: Windows As A Service to Enterprise users.
Please share your thoughts on the implementation of Windows as a cloud-based service, rather than a local installation. Would you like that?