Jerry Nixon, a Microsoft development executive, said recently that Windows 10 would be the "last version" of the desktop software. Instead of new stand-alone versions, Windows 10 would be improved in regular installments, the firm said.

In a statement, Microsoft said Mr Nixon's comments reflected a change in the way that it made its software. "Windows will be delivered as a service bringing new innovations and updates in an ongoing manner," it said, adding that it expected there to be a "long future" for Windows.

Goodbye three year updates

The company said it hadn’t yet decided what to call the operating system beyond Windows 10. "There will be no Windows 11," said Steve Kleynhans, a research vice-president at analyst firm Gartner who monitors Microsoft.

However, he said, working in that way had created many problems for Microsoft and its customers. "Every three years or so Microsoft would sit down and create 'the next great OS'," he said. "The developers would be locked away and out would pop a product based on what the world wanted three years ago."

Microsoft also had to spend a huge amount of money and marketing power to convince people that they needed this new version, and that it was better than anything that had come before, he explained.

Moving to a situation in which Windows is a constantly updated service will break out of this cycle, and let Microsoft play more with the software to test new features and see how customers like them, he added.

A positive move, with risks

Most of the revenue generated by Windows for Microsoft comes from sales of new PCs and this is unlikely to be affected by the change, Mr Kleynhans points out. "Overall this is a positive step, but it does have some risks," he said.

"Microsoft will have to work hard to keep generating updates and new features,” he said, adding that questions still remained about how corporate customers would adapt to the change and how Microsoft would provide support.

"It doesn't mean that Windows is frozen and will never move forward again," Mr Kleynhans told the BBC. "Indeed we are about to see the opposite, with the speed of Windows updates shifting into high gear."

Source: BBC News