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Microsoft Windows to go ‘pay as you go’?

an image of the Microsoft logoIn terms of committing resources to a problem, Microsoft were stretched developing Windows Vista. Their ambitions far exceeded their very considerable reach. For the end user, the end product is a shadow of what was originally talked about.

I imagine Microsoft would be keen to avoid this kind of thing in the future. In fact, I think it was Jim Allchin who suggested that Vista would be the last operating system from Microsoft of that scale.

But what might a future version of Windows look like?

I suspect that Microsoft would hope to bring modularity to future versions of Windows, the kind of modularity that would allow them offer a mix & match approach to their software which doesn’t quite work right now.

For example, just go into any high street computer store and look over the myriad versions of Windows Vista.

It’s a nightmare.

Their focus is marketing-led and not customer-centric. Microsoft might argue otherwise, but that’s just because they’re so wrong they don’t know how wrong they actually are.

Through the eyes of Microsoft, lots of options is good, when in reality, less options is better.

Microsoft really need to move away from the fiasco that was the development of Vista, and ASP (no, not that ASP, but Application Service Provision) may be the way forward for them:

“Microsoft has been quietly testing a new ‘pay-as-you-go’ software rental service in South Africa, Mexico, and Romania. The service allows users to pay a monthly fee of around $15 for the use of Office 2003.

The program is a pilot project, designed to help Microsoft gauge the public reaction to the idea of software rentals. In a statement given to Ars, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the program offers customers ‘the opportunity to obtain genuine Microsoft Office 2003 at a low upfront price, along with the flexibility to pay over time and renew when they choose.’”

While this pilot program is clearly just for Microsoft Office, what will be learned here is definitely going to be transferable knowledge.

How exactly Microsoft might make Windows [more] modular in the future is unknown, and to be honest, that sort of thing falls right outside the remit of this ‘blog.

Might making Windows modular be as big a task as developing Vista? I imagine it’s not going to a trivial issue.

I know I’m making a leap here from renting software to making Windows modular, but it seems obvious to me that future versions of Windows might be rented rather than owned, which in the past wasn’t a cool thing to do:

“In the early days of personal computer software, the concept of renting software was met with public outrage, as users worried that they would no longer be able to own their software. However, in the age of the Internet, cellular phones, and multiplayer online games, the concept of paying monthly fees for software has become less abhorrent.”

The climate is clearly very different these days, and it’s clear that the sense of ownership isn’t quite what it was back in the day.

What I can say is, where Microsoft are heading is a place I’ve invested a lot of my own time looking to get towards.

I’m in the early stages of developing a suite of web applications for creative businesses, and the ‘pay as you go’ model has a certain allure. One that allows for very ad hoc leasing of tools to facilitate a specific need at a specific time.

Where my business idea differs (and this is something very crucial) is that my software would not lock down the data, whereas I imagine Microsoft would and historically have done.

So while future versions of Windows might be modular, Microsoft’s Windows may not be any more open…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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