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Here is why there will be no Windows 11

Windows as a service
Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, not because Microsoft is finished with Windows but because it's not going to give it a new name every time the OS gets updated

When Terry Myerson was trying to explain why the version of Microsoft's operating system after Windows 8 wasn't called Windows 9, he said the name had to match how different this new release of Windows would be. "We're at an inflection point," he explained. "We're at a point where we carry forward all that's good in Windows and step across into a new way of doing things – a new Windows. Because we're not building an incremental Windows, the new Windows is Windows 10."

That new way of doing things is what Microsoft calls Windows as a Service. That's a slightly confusing name – it doesn't mean that Windows is moving to be a cloud version of an operating system. There won't be a Windows 11 that only runs when you're online, or has nothing but a browser like Chrome OS.

In fact there probably won't be a Windows 11 at all – just new updates that add extra features to Windows without changing the name. Some of those will come month by month, others will be collected into larger updates that bring multiple features at once.

The first of these is planned for this autumn, adding features to the Edge browser like syncing favourites between machines and giving business versions of Windows the Enterprise Data Protection file containers for security. Then there will be another major update a year later. And no, you won't have to start paying a subscription to get those after the first year – Microsoft has had to change the way it does the accounting reports for Windows 10 revenue because of the new update model, but that doesn't mean it's going to charge for those updates.

No need for Windows 11

That's why when you ask the Windows team if a specific option is in Windows 10, the answer is usually "not currently" rather than no. Microsoft doesn't need to bring out Windows 11, because it can just keep adding features to Windows 10. In fact that's the way it's built Windows 10 – instead of coming up with the plan for all the features and options at the beginning and then building them, the process has been much more agile, with small changes tested in preview releases and often changed based on feedback before the team moved on to work on the next group of features and options.

That process will continue because the Windows Insider previews will continue. It's very different from getting betas of a new version of Windows once every two or three years, and rather more like Google's cloud services that keep getting new features and keep their beta title for many years.

The fact that Windows 10 is a perpetual – and perpetually updating – version of Windows does explain why Microsoft wanted a more significant name. It might also have been intended to avoid the obvious comparison with Apple's Mac OS X, which has stayed as OS X instead of getting a new number for each new release. Unlike Apple's series of cat and California names, Microsoft probably won't use catchy codenames publicly (the autumn 2015 update is called Redstone internally). But you can think of it as getting a new version of Windows every year, with the Insider previews being available for much of the previous year.

But how long can that go on for?