A consumer subscription version of Windows may be just around the corner
Rumors about a consumer subscription version of Windows have been floating around for several years. It is the next logical step for Microsoft in its quest to make continuous revenue from its products.
Microsoft transitioned Office already. While still available for a one-time payment, Office is also available as part of a Microsoft 365 subscription for Enterprise customers, businesses and consumers.
These two product versions are not equal. The subscription-based version of Office gets a continuous stream of features and improvements, which the perpetual license version of Office does not get.
The situation is different when it comes to the Windows operating system. While there is Windows 365 Enterprise and Business, there is no comparable option for consumers.
These two products are also Cloud PCs, which means that these PCs are streamed to supported devices. The main idea here is to provide workers with access to a Windows environment wherever they are.
There is no Windows 365 subscription for consumers, and no subscription that works similarly to Microsoft 365.
The most obvious path for Microsoft would be to copy the Office transformation. Give Windows customers and businesses an option to purchase a Windows subscription next to making a one-time payment. It could even bundle this in Microsoft 365 to increase its attractiveness.
It seems unlikely, however, that Microsoft would feature-limit the perpetual license version of Windows similarly to what it has done with the Office version.
New evidence of a subscription-based version of Windows
Our colleagues over at Deskmodder have found new evidence of a subscription-based version of Windows. They discovered new entries in the slmgr.ini file that list a subscription-based version.
The change was discovered in the most recent Canary version of Windows 11 and a check of the file in Windows 11 version 23H2 confirmed that the entries are new.
The entries have been found in the German version of the latest Windows 11 build. They list the Subscription Edition, Subscription Type and Subscription Status.
Whether this hints at an upcoming cloud-based subscription option or a traditional subscription is unknown at this point. There are quite a few possibilities, from creating a Microsoft 365 Plus subscription that includes a Windows license to standalone Windows subscriptions and the aforementioned Cloud PC offering.
Microsoft could launch a subscription-based version of Windows as soon as next year. It could also use the rumored launch of Windows 12 in 2025 to add a subscription option and maybe announce other major changes to Windows at the same time.
It would coincide with the death of Windows 10 and millions of Windows PCs that can't be upgraded to Windows 11. A cloud-based Windows PC that users could stream to their aging devices might also be in consideration at Microsoft.
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