Windows 11: The number you have dialed has been disconnected

In a world of incremental updates, Windows 12 won't be Windows 12

Opinion Ever wondered why no network exec has picked up on writers' pitches for Desperate Tech Bros? The reason is simple: the market is already saturated.

Tune into any technology reviews channel on YouTube over the last month, and you'll see them sweat as they try to pad out the minutes with "Ten ESSENTIAL new features you NEED to know" about Android 14. Or iOS 17. Or macOS Sonoma. All three of these are labelled and marketed as major revisions of major OSes. But for savvy users, all three of these look like a minor reskinning of the previous versions, albeit ones that mysteriously need gigabytes of download.

At least Sonoma has the excuse that a lot of that flab is for giant 4k drone footage of vapid countryside masquerading as active backgrounds. Although, let's be honest, the reality is that it's Tim Cook's punishment to users who didn't shell out the cash for that extra, hugely overpriced SSD option. Don't believe us? Try to remove them.

Nothing new under the Sun

It's not that OS development has come to a full stop, but the big new ideas that used to mark a big new version have all been done. The marketeers are even more desperate than the tech bros, with the result that genuinely useful new functionality is outweighed by useless, even deleterious, payloads for the sake of change. Look at Windows 11's sluggish take-up, largely because it's Windows 10 demanding you buy it a new computer. There is no user benefit to any of this any more, just bloat, annoyance, and tedious reviews.

Major version releases used to have Hollywood-level buzz, and for good reason. Hardware was advancing at a breathtaking rate, with architectures, peripherals, CPU capabilities, and networking constantly demanding more of base OS capabilities. With no practicable online update mechanisms before broadband got big, all changes had to be marshaled onto physical media where one big bang cost far less than constant little dribbles. New hardware drove new OSes, and new OSes drove new hardware.

None of that is true any more, and hasn't been for a decade. Only Microsoft still makes any attempt to charge end users for the charade, and then only because it still has squatter's rights with OEMs and corporations. That $25 billion it makes every year from Windows is good money, but it's only around 12 percent of revenue. The company is also reported to have just turned Amazon over for a billion in a single million-seat deal licensing Office 365 – which doesn't even need Windows to run. And at $200 per user per year, who cares?

Redmond doesn't need Windows 12, we don't need Windows 12, businesses and OEMs don't need Windows 12. Let's stop pretending, shall we?

One day, there may be a good reason for a major OS revision again – if a radical restructuring of internal architectures to fundamentally improve security happens, say, or the ghost of Clive Sinclair returns with a quantum computing version of the Quantum Leap. There are plenty of problems still to solve in desktop and mobile computing, and plenty of advances to be made. Just none of them will involve anything like the change from Windows 3.11 to Windows 95, or from 95 to Windows XP. Those tracked the introduction of media-capable hardware, of the arrival of the internet, and of big computer grade memory management, multitasking, and inter-process security. We won't get any of them again.

It's no big deal to imagine the world where major version changes don't happen, are invisible to most people, or just don't matter. Chromebooks do just fine without them, and despite the residual razzmatazz of the launch cycle, most mobile users update when they get around to it, or when they choose to update their phone on their own refresh rhythm. Linux is a year-round festival of take it or leave it on the desktop, and the kernel tracking genuinely important developments in the ecosystem that the IT clan needs to know about. Users, though? They see nothing and know nothing, and that's exactly right.

Here's a prediction. Microsoft will look at Windows 11 and realize that the gig is up. It can make all its money by just licensing generic Windows Desktop with a free five-year security update promise.

Perhaps it's too much to hope the marketing departments at Microsoft and elsewhere will give up on their addiction to regular spasms of New Improved Version N+1, any more than hardware makers will swap Pro, Max, and Ultra for Spendy, How Much? and HOW MUCH?!

But for that global army of Windows users, change comes freely when they want it rather than expensively when Microsoft says so. And this will be a welcome stop to rejoining the modern world. And, incidentally, no threat to season 17 of Desperate Tech Bros, the only show with a permanent green light. ®

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