Why Windows 8.1 Update 1 is ‘required’

We recently wrote about the release of Update 1 for Windows 8.1.

In that post, we noted that Microsoft was making this update mandatory for all subsequent security updates, and wondered why they would do that. Apparently we weren’t the only ones, and there was enough angry feedback that Microsoft extended the period during which Windows 8.1 systems without Update 1 could continue receiving security updates, from 30 days to 120.

But why add this kind of limitation at all?

Ars Technica may have the answer to that question. We previously wondered why Microsoft wasn’t simply labeling Update 1 as ‘Service Pack 1’, in keeping with their long-established practices. The answer is simple: Microsoft sees what Apple, Google, and other O/S developers are doing, and they want to do the same.

Anyone who owns a Mac knows that Apple’s support for previous versions of OS X is extremely limited. If you want to keep running that old version of OS X, you’re going to have problems, and you won’t have any recourse except to bite the bullet and upgrade. Often, that also means upgrading the hardware. While this is clearly a consumer-hostile stance, it’s easy to understand. Apple saves an enormous amount of money and effort that would otherwise be spent on supporting old versions, developing updates for multiple O/S versions, and so on.

It appears that Microsoft has finally started down the path away from backward-compatibility and support for old versions of Windows. This is both a good and a bad thing. Backward compatibility is why so many people still run Windows XP: why upgrade your O/S if it suits your purposes and can still be kept reasonably secure? But it’s also the source of many problems.

Moving to a more restricted update system in Windows 8.x looks like the first step in a general trend towards the less consumer-friendly model used by Apple and others. And if that’s true, we can expect more moves like this in Microsoft’s future. Which is sad, but probably inevitable.

About jrivett

Jeff Rivett has worked with and written about computers since the early 1980s. His first computer was an Apple II+, built by his father and heavily customized. Jeff's writing appeared in Computist Magazine in the 1980s, and he created and sold a game utility (Ultimaker 2, reviewed in the December 1983 Washington Apple Pi Journal) to international markets during the same period. Proceeds from writing, software sales, and contract programming gigs paid his way through university, earning him a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) degree at UWO. Jeff went on to work as a programmer, sysadmin, and manager in various industries. There's more on the About page, and on the Jeff Rivett Consulting site.

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