Annual upgrades for Windows: good or bad?

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Annual upgrades for Windows: good or bad?

Speculation is that Microsoft will upgrade windows every year. Is it important to have the latest operating system?

Every few years - the cycle varies - Microsoft releases a new version of Windows. And in large businesses with many hundreds or thousands of computers to manage there is much gnashing of teeth as the transition from the old to the new is planned and then executed.

But for those of us in smaller businesses, do we really care?

The question comes as it seems Microsoft is making a course correction in how it updates its software.

Instead of large, monolithic changes such as the jump from Windows XP to Vista or Windows 7 to Windows 8, Microsoft will be doing more, smaller releases and incrementally adding new features and functions.

Or so recent reports have suggested.

A recent report suggests that Microsoft might be releasing an interim version of Windows, currently codenamed "Blue" before Windows 9 hits the shelves.

During an informal chat with some Microsoft staffers earlier this week, it was suggested that Windows releases will be more frequent than previously. 

Apple's approach is instructive here. The last few versions of OS X have only been relatively minor changes on previous versions. The progression form Leopard to Snow Leopard to Lion and now Mountain Lion has been quite gradual.

For those who upgrade their software regularly, you get the benefit of new features without feeling like someone has arbitrarily changed everything. 

For a small business, managing your own IT, this approach means that you can access new features without requiting a massive effort or lots of new computers.

So, if Microsoft adopts this policy, it's likely to make upgrading less of a burden.

However, there will be a cost. In the past, the easiest way to upgrade the operating system on your computer was to buy a new computer.

Every three years or so, you replaced the laptop or office PC and it came with the latest version of Windows.

Now, if you want to keep up, you'll need to pay for the upgrade cost of the software each time. Instead of getting Windows as part of your new computer, you'll have a small fee to pay each year if you want to stay current.

And that's the question - is it important to have the latest operating system?

In our view, having the current or previous version of an operating system means you'll be well supported by software and peripheral vendors.

So, with Windows 8 on the market, it's probably time to consider moving off Vista or XP if you're still there.

This isn't because they will stop working. But as time goes on, the accessory and software market will abandon the older products.

If Microsoft releases new versions of Windows more frequently, you'll probably need to update your operating system between hardware upgrades, unless vendors change their tune.

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