"I see them driven by the Surface PCs, which are sealed units," said Cherry of Microsoft-made hardware. The first Surface, a tablet powered by Windows RT, was unveiled in June and will go on sale in two weeks. "They're totally reliant on over-the-network updates. Some won't have DVD drives -- optical drives are likely to go away -- and as these sealed devices get more popular, on-the-fly updating is the way to go."
Apple has already ditched optical drives from its notebook lines, and those machines as well as the iPad, are usually updated over-the-air via wireless networks. The Cupertino, Calif. company has never collected updates into service pack-style bundles, but has instead issued multiple updates to OS X over the course of each year.
Sinofsky did not explicitly declare service packs dead, but he seemed to hint it was on the cusp of obsolescence, and that Microsoft plans to deliver not only fixes and patches, but also new and improved features, via Windows Update.
"We think this new pace of delivering high-quality updates to Windows will be a welcome enhancement for all of our customers," said Sinofsky Tuesday.
There are risks to Microsoft's strategy, warned Miller and Storms. While enterprises traditionally test service packs before they're deployed throughout an organization, the security experts wondered if that would still take place when Microsoft instead delivers a larger number of smaller updates that may include new tools and features, or even "Modern"-style apps.
"My concern is that users may blindly put things on their systems," said Miller. "It's going to challenge organizations to expand their maintenance and testing Windows. We're going to have to adapt."
"Windows Update is an established and trusted delivery mechanism. but if a user installs an update from Windows Update and experiences a blue screen, then that trust will be lost," said Storms.
Even Cherry chimed in. "Back when Patch Tuesday got started, it didn't have a good track record and so a lot of us were concerned about mixing bug fixes and features together. Now, its track record is much better. But you're only as good as your last update."
Some Windows 8 users were thinking more about the size of Tuesday's update than about any potential problems in the future. "Wow, I don't remember the last time I've downloaded a 170MB patch from Windows Update that wasn't a Service Pack or a new app," said "Entegy" in a comment on Sinofsky's blog.