MICROSOFT MIGHT BE PLANNING a fresh start for its beleaguered Windows operating system by offering a free upgrade to Windows 9.
Windows analyst Mary Jo Foley has cited sources that claim Microsoft plans to end fragmentation of Windows while taking a hit on potential profits from the sale of Windows 9.
Should the rumours prove true it will provide Microsoft with a much-needed fresh start after the problems that have dogged the latest Windows 8 iteration, however in doing so it might inadvertently push millions of pounds of additional costs onto consumers taking up the offer.
New versions of Windows are notorious for introducing incompatibilities with third-party peripherals such as printers and controllers. This is due to changes in the kernel of the operating system that render the drivers, the software packages that control the peripherals, useless or at least wildly erratic.
If Windows XP users were suddenly to be upgraded by three versions it could also result in millions of pounds of outdated but still functioning equipment being scrapped and replaced because no software drivers exist for the equipment in newer Windows editions.
As well as the financial implications, there could also be environmental ramifications as suddenly obsolete equipment is discarded. In many territories there are laws forbidding the dumping of electrical equipment in landfills, however all of this obsolete technolog would still have to go somewhere, potentially burdening manufacturers that have committed to recycling schemes.
At the moment these rumours remain just rumours, but it's recognised that at some point Microsoft will have to make a decision about how to lure customers back to its flagship products. This month's Net Applications statistics have shown a slight drop in use of Windows 8.x, while use of its predecessor Windows 7 continues to rise. Windows XP, which reached end of life on 6 April, still holds nearly a quarter of the market.
Foley's blog post also confirms that the second update to Windows 8.1 is still on schedule to be part of this month's Patch Tuesday, however it isn't expected to hold any significant surprises, as the Redmond company has downplayed it from "Update 2" to "August Update". µ