A lot has happened at Microsoft over the past year. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended in January, Windows 10 was released in late July, Office 2016 followed barely two months later, and the Insider Preview of Windows 10 Mobile has been gaining traction.
Windows 10 left a firm impression on the second half of 2015. In November, Windows 10 received its first major upgrade, causing major havoc owing to reset privacy settings and removed applications. Microsoft also began pushing the upgrade more aggressively.
Where will Microsoft’s ambition take Windows users in 2016? We have some clues and bold speculations for you.
What 2016 Will Bring for Windows Users
1. Free 15 GB OneDrive Storage & Camera Roll Bonus Expire
In 2016, Microsoft will remove unlimited Office 365 cloud storage and set the limit back to 1 TB. Apparently, a few took unfair advantage of the offer. That alone would not have been a big deal. What caused massive frustration, however, was that Microsoft is also going to drop free OneDrive storage to 5 GB and remove the camera roll bonus.
We've heard the feedback from our fans. You'll be able to keep your free storage when the changes happen in 2016. https://t.co/WLxKcCRrQe
— OneDrive (@onedrive) December 11, 2015
Following protests from over 60,000 users, Microsoft backtracked. By going to a certain page and logging in with your Microsoft account, you could keep your 15 GB of free OneDrive storage, as well as the 15 GB camera roll bonus.
This offer expires in early January.
2. Internet Explorer Upgrade Notification
Support for older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) is expiring in January 2016. Microsoft writes:
Beginning January 12, 2016, only the most current version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates. Please visit the Internet Explorer Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ here for list of supported operating systems and browser combinations.
The most current version of IE depends on your current operating system. For example, if you’re running Windows 7, any browser version below IE 11 won’t be supported anymore, while on Windows Vista SP2, IE 9 will still receive security updates.
If you’re running an unsupported browser, expect to receive an End of Life upgrade notification via update KB3123303, which is expected to be delivered as part of a cumulative security update on January 12, 2016. This Microsoft support page advises how to upgrade IE now .
3. Service Pack Support for Windows 8 Ends
Also on January 12, 2016, support for all editions of Windows 8 will expire.
Customers have 24 months to move to Windows 8.1 after General Availability in order to remain supported. See the Windows 8.1 FAQ for more information.
If you wish to remain supported, i.e. receive security updates, it’s high time to upgrade to Windows 8.1 or move directly to Windows 10.
4. Aggressive Windows 10 Promotions
Microsoft is aiming for 1 billion devices running Windows 10. Those of you running Windows 7 or 8.1 can expect to get hassled by Microsoft to upgrade to Windows 10. We have already seen some of Microsoft’s strategies, such as removing the option to decline the upgrade.
On a Windows 8.1 PC. Mostly full screen pop-up. No clear "No thanks" button, just download Windows 10 now or later. pic.twitter.com/RRoaFMST9r
— Brad Chacos (@BradChacos) December 11, 2015
In early 2016, Windows 10 will be released as a recommended update. This is the time to review your Windows Update settings .
5. Windows 10 Redstone Update to Be Deployed
The first Redstone Preview Build was just released to Windows Insiders, but only contains minor changes. Most notably, Microsoft has made structural improvements to OneCore, the shared code of cross-device Windows versions.
Essentially, OneCore is the heart of Windows, and these improvements to OneCore make building Windows across PC, tablet, phone, IoT, Hololens and Xbox more efficient. We’re doing some code refactoring and other engineering work to make sure OneCore is optimally structured for teams to start checking in new features and improvements in the new year.
One feature everyone seems to be craving is browser extensions for Microsoft Edge. In November, Microsoft accidentally released an unfinished website announcing Edge extensions. The page was quickly taken down, but what this means is that browser extensions for Edge will soon show up in a Windows Insider Preview build.
— Richard Hay (@WinObs) December 10, 2015
The Windows 10 Redstone update is expected to be released in June 2016. While it’s very likely that Redstone will come with Edge extensions, we can only speculate what other features will be part of the package. Meanwhile, you can follow changes to preview builds on ChangeWindows.org.
6. Free Upgrade Offer for Windows 10 Expires
Windows 7 and 8.1 users have until July 29, 2016 to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. To secure this offer, it’s sufficient to activate Windows 10 once, which will tie the license to your current hardware. Once you have done that, you will be able to re-install Windows 10 indefinitely on this particular device.
To secure the free upgrade offer without giving up your current Windows installation, you could install a Windows 10 dual boot. This is easier than it sounds!
7. Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.1 OEM Licenses Expire
October 31, 2016 marks the end of sales for PCs pre-installed with Windows 7 Pro and Windows 8.1. If you need to buy a new computer and want to avoid Windows 10, this is your last chance. From November 2016 on, second hand licenses and devices will be the only way to obtain a copy of Windows 7 or 8.1.
Interestingly, even though support ends in January, Windows 8 will theoretically be sold pre-installed until June 30, 2016.
Some Bold Speculations for 2016
We can’t tell you whether any of the following things will really happen, but let’s say these are educated guesses.
1. Windows 10 Legal Trouble in Europe
Microsoft will get into trouble for forcing Windows 10 onto consumers. One consumer protection agency in Germany has already given Microsoft a warning regarding its aggressive upgrade practices and further legal steps may follow.
Verbraucherschutz verklagt Microsoft wegen Updatezwang auf Windows 10 https://t.co/oQA80mDuKl
— go_windows (@go_windows) December 19, 2015
We speculate that Europe will take Microsoft to court over its Windows 10 upgrade strategies. The European Commission will subsequently pass a directive similar to the 2009 browser ballot, forcing Microsoft to offer Windows users a choice of free operating system upgrades, along with Windows 10. This will push Linux market share into double digits by 2017. Alright, maybe we’re slightly exaggerating here.
2. Microsoft Will Extend Free Windows 10 Upgrade
In late 2015, Windows 10 adoption rate began to crawl. Microsoft’s flagship operating system didn’t manage to overtake any of the most recent and still popular older Windows versions, including Windows XP.
By summer 2016, despite increased efforts to get laggards into upgrading, Windows 10 will barely surpass Windows XP and Windows 8.1 to become the second most used operating system. But it won’t even be close to catching up with Windows 7. This will force Microsoft to extend its free upgrade offer, possibly even to Windows XP users, which will still make up around 8% of the market.
3. Microsoft Will Open Source Media Center
Since late 2014, Microsoft has been making headlines with open sourcing previously closely guarded tools, such as the .NET Framework or the blogging software Windows Live writer.
The death of Media Center has been painful for many fans. Alternative media centers are a cold comfort. Although it is possible to install Media Center on Windows 10, it has serious limitations. This certainly prevents some die-hard users from upgrading.
In 2016, Microsoft will announce the open sourcing of Media Center. It will be the ace up their sleeve, thrown in to distract from unrelated bad press. Of course, all of this is just speculation.
If You Had One Wish…
Imagine it’s the end of 2016. The year has passed and it was a good one. You ticked several items off your bucket list, the world was surprisingly peaceful, and to everyone’s surprise, Microsoft did one major thing right.
What do you wish Microsoft would do in 2016? What is your biggest wish for Windows? If Microsoft had one chance to win you back over, what would they have to do right?
Image Credits:morning news by Dr. Botwing Photography via Shutterstock