In rifling through the Win8 posts and demos, I couldn't find any justification for cutting off Windows 8.1 patches while continuing to offer Windows 8 patches. There's no new "patching differential paradigm," and certainly none that would justify keeping the original fork of Windows 8 alive while killing off -- or capping -- the Windows 8.1 fork with a hastily distributed Update. In my post earlier this week, I quoted Thomas' reiteration of Microsoft's stance, calling it an "absurd decision":
For those users who are still using Windows 8 and Windows 2012 (and not Windows 8.1 and Windows 2012 R2) you are unaffected and will continue to receive updates as normal. The new baseline only exists for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2.
Stepping back a bit, though, that decision may not be absurd after all. It could well be a harbinger -- a good one.
What follows is pure speculation. I don't have a shred of evidence that it's Microsoft's intent, so indulge me, please.
All of us in the Windows Loyal Opposition are hoping that Microsoft will find a better way to build Windows 9. A year ago, InfoWorld's own Galen Gruman kicked off the festivities with a proposal called Windows Red, which I still think is vastly superior to anything we've seen from Microsoft to date. Late last year, in a series of articles, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley and Winsupersite's Paul Thurrott, quoting unnamed sources, painted a fascinating picture of how Microsoft would proceed with the next version of Windows. This new "Threshold" version of Windows isn't expected until next year, but -- if it exists -- Microsoft is likely laying the foundation for it now.
Foley's sources told her that "Threshold" would consist of three versions: a Metro consumer version; a traditional (read: desktop centric) consumer version; and a corporate version -- an "old fogey's Windows," as I called it back then.
In that scenario, both the Metro consumer version and the desktop consumer version would be subject to rapid updates. In this brave new world, drawing a line in the sand with each new version makes sense -- if you want Windows 9.3, you have to install Windows 9.2 first; when Windows 9.3 becomes available, support for Windows 9.2 dries up fast. (I'll stifle the rant about having to install a new version with very little advanced notice, as was the case with Windows 8.1 Update.)
In the "three versions" scenario the third, stodgy version of Windows stays basically the same, with security patches coming down the pike, but no other major changes.
Is there a chance -- a tiny, tiny chance -- that we're seeing this scenario played out right now? Could that be why Windows 8 patches will continue, while Windows 8.1 patches won't?
Granted, it takes several leaps of faith to connect all those dots. But if that's where we're headed, all of this Windows 8.1 Update pain may be for a good cause.
Also worth noting: If that's where we're headed, it might be a good idea for corporate IT departments to stick with Windows 8 -- avoid both Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update -- despite screams from corporate clients. I know that advice is too late for some of you.
Without a clear road map, though, this is all speculation.
This story, "Three's a charm? Windows 8 patches could pave multiple paths to Windows 9," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.