The real Windows 10 starts with Anniversary Update

On August 2, Microsoft will start rolling out the first major update to Windows 10 – a big bundle of new features appropriately referred to as the Anniversary Update. In some ways, the Anniversary Update is similar to the service packs of old, but for Windows Consumer Product Lead Andy Malakooti, it's so much more.

"For us, this is the new 'Windows as a Service' that we've been talking about for some time," Malakooti told CyberShack. "This is a big update that brings with it a lot of extra functionality. We'll continue doing these big updates regularly. So there'll probably be another one next year, or later in the year. We don't have a specific time frame, but there will be more. Windows as a Service we'll continue to do it regularly. There'll be bigger updates from time to time, but there'll also be smaller updates regularly."

The idea of a Windows as a Service is a stark contrast to the Microsoft of old, who'd be aiming to sell you a new very of Windows every three to four years. Instead of one big update every couple of years, we'll be seeing smaller updates more regularly, and best of all, when once you're on Windows 10, they're free for the life of your device. Microsoft has been talking about talking about Windows as a Service for some time, but with Anniversary Update, it is delivering on its promise. 

So why abandon the model of old? Firstly, Windows as a Service ensures parity with the competition; namely, Apple. Since the launch of OS X Mavericks in 2013, Apple has been providing free yearly operating systems to the users of Mac hardware. While I wouldn't describe free operating system updates as a system seller, they're definitely in the "nice to have" basket.

Free upgrades also help ensure that Windows users are all mostly on the same version, which in turn could greatly reduce Microsoft's workload when it comes support and patches. In a similar manner, a simplified approach to operating systems should benefit developers, who – in the long run – will just have to support Windows 10 (rather than past Microsoft operating systems). It's really no surprise that Microsoft was a little too eager to push the free update to Windows 10.

And while Microsoft might be forsaking a bit of revenue in making Windows updates free for the life of a device, the lion's share of Windows profits come from computer hardware manufactures (such as HP, ASUS, and Lenovo) who buy Windows licenses in bulk for the millions of machines they build a year.

As it stands, Anniversary Update is a bit of a mixed bag. Features like extension support in Microsoft Edge and third party support for Cortana feel long overdue, whereas it will take time for the likes of web-based and in-app biometric authentication and Xbox Play Anywhere to become meaningful additions. At the same time, it's very hard to complain about free. For me, the overarching promise of Windows as a Service is much more exciting than the first batch of new features.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update will be available to Windows 10 owners from August 2. If you still haven't upgraded to Windows 10, you've got until July 29 to nab the free upgrade.

Read more: 5 new features coming to Windows 10

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