Debian's release cycle is similar. I started with 3 Etch, within five months of that, 4 Lenny was released and now the production version is 6 Squeeze. In a year or so, updates will stop flowing for 4 Lenny (oldstable) so we have 12 months to plan production system upgrades. But, the cost remains very reasonable; they are not pushing a new major version and including "advancements" purly for the purpose of a sales pitch. The upgrade remains very reasonable; you can actually do an upgrade and trust that it'll work out.
I'd personally love to see a more modular install and evolutionary development cycle rather without constantly adding new things to justify revolutionary development and a new profit cycle. Managing it as more of a rolling or semi-rolling distribution would be very nice for the end user. At least the service packs come in through the update system and it's far from the only US that gets large update dumps from time to time.
Bug, MS is a for-profit company which manufactures money using retail software as one of it's production tools. They'll do as any other for-profit company will do when the priority is shareholder equities. One can't really fault them entirely or be surprised by it.
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