Can Windows 10 be Microsoft’s Big Saviour?

Microsoft started rolling out free upgrades of its latest Operating System (OS), Windows 10, earlier this week. Once the giant of OS softwares, Microsoft will be betting on this new and refurbished OS to revive its market fortunes. At the Build 2015 developer conference earlier this year, Microsoft’s EVP of Operating Systems, Terry Myerson, said that the company hoped to get atleast 1 billion users on board with Windows 10, in the next 2-3 years.

Post Windows XP, that revolutionary desktop OS from Microsoft’s stable, the Redmond, Washington based tech giant has struggled to put across impressive figures for its operating systems. The penetration rate of Windows Vista amongst existing XP users was extremely low, and its buggy and unstable reputation, made it even infamous amongst new users. While Windows 7 met with a slightly more favorable response, it was clear, that Microsoft was not being able to replicate the success of its pre-millenium systems and Windows XP.

In a bid to break away from convention and be the first manufacturer to make a cross-platform compatible OS, Microsoft released Windows 8 in 2012. There was much expectation from the OS, if not for Microsoft’s reputation, for the novelty factor that cross-platform compatibility brought. But the disaster that was Windows 8, never quite went down anyone’s throats smoothly – neither the purists, nor the critics.

Following that, expectations from Windows 10 are slightly skewed. Many are skeptical, some even sure Windows 10 might be a perfect successor to Windows 8 in terms of disaster. Some are hopeful, that Microsoft might still be able to salvage its numero uno position with this release.

As the OS is being rolled out and the reviews are coming in, the response to Windows 10 seems fairly positive. For one, Microsoft have learned from their mistake and brought back the Start menu.

Although, slightly renovated and still under the Metro interface hangover, the Start menu is back to being the one-stop go-to button for all your applications and files.

“Windows 10 begins to deliver on our vision for more personal computing. In this world experiences are mobile, moving with you seamlessly and easily across your devices.”, Terry Myerson said in a blog. By that measure, Windows 10 seems ready for cross-compatibility. How mobile users adopt to Windows 10 will have to be seen, but the fact that Microsoft will have to work very hard to make it happen is for sure. The reception of the previous Windows OS on mobiles wasn’t very encouraging. Apart from buggy functionality, one of users’ greatest concern remained the sheer lack of apps available on the Windows Store.

If Microsoft wants to capture the mobile market like Android and iOS, it has to do something about its app store. One of the most common concerns was the lack of apps, coupled with third party apps having a fallout with official app developers, leading to third party apps too being pulled out from Windows store. While Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, etc. do have an official Windows app, the complaints of them being sluggish and lacking in feature are all too common. Infact, the Instagram app for Windows hasn’t been updated since March 2014. It seems the team has stopped all and any work on it.

Microsoft had started overhauling its mobile OS and in early 2015, and there is small shift towards good since then. But it still lags way behind Android and iOS to make an immediate and effective impact.

Coming back to Windows 10, what Microsoft really needs is developers’ trust. The tech giant squandered it by making app development a painful task for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Microsoft has made it clear that Windows 10 apps could be built using pre-built Java (used for Android) and Objective C (used for iOS) codes. That should ease up developers a little and instill some hope in Microsoft executives who hope to see 1 billion Windows 10 installation within the next 2 years.

But 1 billion is a pretty huge number and just the return of Start button and simpler developer platforms is not going to help. Microsoft, probably having realized that, has made the OS slightly more traditional than its predecessor. Windows 10 looks like a good mix of traditional Windows experience coupled with some elements of the modern interface.

Additionally, Microsoft has integrated Xbox One streaming within Windows 10 and has offered the OS as a free upgrade to anyone running a genuine old Windows OS. Then there’s Cortana, the Siri-like assistant Microsoft has made to assist its users with searches and help. That has obviously opened up the OS to many potentially unfavoring customers. Great tactic that should work, hopefully. But Microsoft should realize that one free upgrade would not be enough. The free upgrade rolling out now has a one-year validity.

My question is, why not permanently free upgrades? If Microsoft is aiming to make Windows 10 popular cross-platform, it will have to follow a rule its rivals do – upgrade for free. Users don’t have to move from Android Kitkat to Android Lollipop for a price. Or from iOS 6 to iOS 7 on an annual trial period. These updates are rolled out to users for free on their devices. There is something Microsoft will have to do on similar lines to register a wider recognition in today’s times.

And finally, and most importantly, Microsoft will have to jump on a lot more hardware to be noticed. It has for long, been the default OS, for many PC manufacturers. But it never quite broke into Android’s monopoly on mobile devices. If not that (Android is pretty much the king and own the segment), Microsoft will atleast have to come out with its own hardware like Apple. A few shabby Lumia tablets and phones here and there won’t help. Microsoft will have to target the top segment with their software and hardware and deliver, and only then can it expect Windows 10 to pull out of the grave Windows 8 almost got Microsoft into.

Signing off,
Amit Jadhav,


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