Whither Windows 10?

On the eve of the launch preview of the next version of Microsoft’s operating system behemoth, there are numerous questions in the air about what Microsoft plans to do with Windows 10 and, more importantly, what impact it’s likely to have.

The company is expected to use the Windows 10 launch as an opportunity to bring all their disparate operating system efforts—Windows for desktop, Windows Mobile, Xbox and even the long forgotten Windows RT—into a structured, cohesive whole. The idea is by doing so, they can create a broader base of potential customers. Then, in turn, they can attract a wider array of application developers and create a virtuous circle that will drive both important improvements and growth to the platform.

While I believe there is some truth and logic to these arguments, I also think they’re only capturing part of the story. The problem is that much of this logic is based on traditional ways of thinking about platforms, developers, the number of apps, etc. Essentially the argument goes: “Whoever has the most apps wins”.

I’ve argued in the past and continue to believe, that the app ecosystem as we know it is not long for this world. I mean really — who can keep track of 1.5 million apps for each of the major platforms and expect the developers are going to keep feeding into a system that isn’t really paying the vast majority of them back?

Instead, I expect to see a bigger shift to web-based services that, while they may leverage a platform-specific app, aren’t necessarily dependent on a particular app, or a particular platform, or even a particular device. Nor do I believe these services will be completely dependent upon mobile devices.

In fact, in nearly everyone’s haste to describe the world as “mobile first,” they seem to forget that mobile first does not mean mobile only. The multiple devices per person reality we live in is only going to get more diverse and more complicated as wearables and other smart connected “things” come onto the scene. Just as no individual is constantly on the move all the time, so too can it be argued that people only need and will only use mobile devices a certain percentage of the time.[pullquote]In nearly everyone’s haste to describe the world as ‘mobile first,’ they seem to forget that mobile first does not mean mobile only.” [/pullquote]

Which brings me back to Windows 10. On a most basic level, I believe Windows 10 will have a positive impact on the less mobile PC industry and keep it important and relevant for many years to come. As we’ve seen with business in particular, PCs continue to play an extremely important and vital role in the lives of enormous numbers of people. I also expect Windows 10 can inspire more creative consumer-focused devices and help rejuvenate the still struggling consumer PC market.

The question remains however. What about mobile? There’s no question Windows will remain challenged if we purely look at it from a share of smart phones perspective. Even with Microsoft’s efforts to combine platforms (and whatever other tricks they pull from their sleeves later this week), it’s an enormous uphill battle to try and overcome the lead Android and iOS have over Windows Mobile. Do I think they can gain some market share? Yes, but not really enough to make a critical difference.

However, what I believe Microsoft will try to do with Windows 10 is position it as a platform that’s as friendly as possible to cloud-based services (the “cloud first” portion of their public strategy) on devices of all shapes and sizes. That’s where I think Microsoft’s real opportunity lies. The company has already shown a willingness to bring some of its cloud-based services—everything from OneDrive, Skype and even Office—to multiple platforms, so it’s clear they aren’t concerned about the traditional “walls” that have separated one platform from another in the past.

If Microsoft can entice cloud-based service creators to support Windows 10 by enabling easy hooks from their services either directly into the OS, or perhaps even into a layer that sits above the main OS (a concept I’ve written about in the past I call a “MetaOS”) but links down to the OS, then the whole “app gap” problem in mobile starts to look a lot less concerning.

Windows 10 clearly represents some huge opportunities and challenges for Microsoft, but looking at it solely through traditional metrics won’t give you the full story.

Published by

Bob O'Donnell

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

21 thoughts on “Whither Windows 10?”

  1. “In fact, in nearly everyone’s haste to describe the world as “mobile first,” they seem to forget that mobile first does not mean mobile only.”

    I fully agree. There are mobile devices (phones, tablets & wearables) and there are portable devices (laptops, 2-1s & desktops). Many desktops are quasi-portable (laptops with docking stations and fixed monitors). For the most part, large enterprise customers are still using desktops connected to the inter/intranet. Enterprise applications need to address mobile and portable where mobile versions have limited, targeted functionality. Windows 10 needs to fit into this model.

    1. Yes, that’s exactly right. It’s all about maintaining the right balance between mobile and
      “less mobile”.

  2. “bring all their disparate operating system efforts…into a structured, cohesive whole”
    Which does not matter if they sell zero tablets and zero phones.
    And, how close to zero are those sales today?

    1. Fair point, but there is still a reasonable opportunity when you add in Xbox, PCs, tablets, 2-in-1s and phones.

        1. But still very close to zero… and most will remain in a warehouse anyway.

          And then there’s Windows Phone… that’s actually starting to see marginal uptick in sales in developing world (entry-level). But Microsoft still ignores that market anyway.

          1. remove the Surface from that number and see what’s left.

            After all that’s the platform/form factor in question. It’s not the desktop.

          2. I’ll have to disagree with you there friend. If I’m writing for the desktop, and it’s a short leap to mobile, I may well launch a mobile version.
            The desktop is far from dead. It might even have coattails into mobile.

          3. Fair enough.

            To be clear: I am a fan of Microsoft. I would simply rather them focus on actually addressing most of their customer needs before their competitors completely disrupt them (Google in business, etc…, Box, Rackspace)

  3. The demise of apps and the rise of web-based services in mobile computing is completely dependent on bandwidth and its continuous accessibility. Most people seem to think that’s just around the corner. I don’t think so. As long as people face the significant likelihood of finding themselves in a place with no signal, apps will reign supreme. And getting rid of that lag when you tap to pull up a web-based app is going to be even harder.

    1. The bandwidth issues are real and I think that will keep apps around for some time, but I think their importance will decrease over time.

      1. I suppose the question is the timeline, are we five years away from apps decreasing in importance, or 30 years away? And as computing power marches forward, along with storage capacity, how far away is distributed computing, a kind of local cloud, the Apple Network of Things, etc? Is a web app really a web app when it can mostly exist within a local network? I tend to think the lines are going to blur. After all, consumers don’t care about the details, they care about jobs-to-be-done, so for me that’s always the lens to view it through.

      2. To drive home just how real the bandwidth issues are…Would you trust a hard drive with mobile internet level reliability, costs, and speed?

        1. Or worse yet… ISP’s or Carrier’s want a piece of the pie too… Hello cloud providers?

          They also want to have the upper hand/ability to control or “manage” their network.

          Think peering… Think software defined networks from the ISP’s. Want reliability for your mission critical Salesforce CRM… Pay up because that’s an over the top value added service/tier not part of the standard internet that’s we’re artificially congesting.

    2. This.
      “Cloud” requires connectivity and relying on 3rd parties, which in my experience are the 2 less reliable, less safe, and most expensive links in the IT chain.
      Old fat-client IT was indeed a pain, with bugs, incompatibilities, updates to install manually, fiddly configs and expensive skills… but I can’t help think we can do better nowadays, even for fat clients: bugs will stay, but there are some in Cloud too; incompatibilities are rarer thanks to better OS design and more abstraction; OS-wide update tools are common, better install tools limit the need for skilled admins…
      I understand suppliers love Cloud, because it morphs their revenues into rents, and limits the need to maintain older versions. I think they’re over-selling it though, and many customers are being gullible.

  4. I wonder about the role that simple inertia plays. I am old enough to have worked in offices using Windows 3.1 to 95/98, XP through Win7, and even among some younger than I there is a mindset that “you do everything with Office”. There is no curiosity about other tools (which are often superior) or methods of use (which are often superior). For these people, the hegemony of Windows/Office is simply a given, and actual quality has very little to do with it. They have jobs, and they use what they are given. QED.

    The lack of real attachment to the tools seems a potential weakness, as there is nothing other than history and momentum to maintain loyalty. Windows/Office is simply a modern version of a ledger book, unchanging and dull, with no need to change or inspire.

    My gut tells me that Windows 10 won’t move the needle significantly, because Microsoft’s role is no longer to ignite ideas. It is to make ledger books.

  5. I’m intrigued by the “MetaOS” concept.

    I’m all in favor of picking & choosing what services I want connected; and as a security bonus, this puts another layer between the internet and the primary OS.

    Did you patent your idea? Or was this out there?

  6. a platform that’s as friendly as possible to cloud-based services

    Although I have no idea whether this is actually Microsoft’s strategy, I agree that what you say should be their priority.
    What this means, first and foremost, is that the default browser on Windows should be the best, bar none. This might be the most significant thing to come out from Microsoft’s announcement. If they forget to do this, and instead dabble in native app – cloud integration, I would question their priorities.
    What I would like to see, and this is something that other browsers may have at least a bit of difficulty replicating, is integrating the power of MS-Office into the browser. At the very least, I would like to see the spell and grammer checker of MS-Word available in every text entry field of Microsoft’s browser.

    1. YES!

      This *IS* what Microsoft should focus on… NEEDS OF THEIR ACTUAL CUSTOMERS!!!

      More productive & collaborative Office suite – that’s COMPLETELY platform neutral (It’s Windows focused getting best & most features – Mac version is a joke and complete headache in enterprise environment). Instead Microsoft gives us Outlook 2015 for Mac that still CAN’T sync right with Microsoft’s OWN Exchange server??? Don’t worry more & more are dumping Exchange for Google Apps for Business anyway.

      Core customers have been DEMANDING Internet Explorer to be replaced completely for an open alternative. Base it off WebKit! Instead we get Spartan – (simply IE fork using Trident engine)… This is Internet Explorer 6 all over again. Don’t worry – enterprise got burned by IE before – switching to Chrome and most importantly:

      More enterprises are dumping Microsoft hosting & authoring tools for their local intranet portals (and HR systems) because they’re closed to Internet Explorer. Now we’re switching too Google Apps hosting like so many others have.

      Instead Microsoft gives us a reboot of Windows 8 with Windows 10. Surface interface no one wanted forced on us again. Great! And they keep promoting universal apps & Surface integration/sync capabilities. So all your Microsoft devices can work well. “Azure is the glue that holds all your Windows devices together!” Except no one uses those other Windows devices… No one wants to either. No one was asking for them and no one had Surface integration in their top list of needs.

      Microsoft is continuing to NOT serving their customers. And their customers are slowly beginning to leave.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *