You may have heard Microsoft will later this year release to manufacture Windows 10, a new operating system for PCs (and other devices) to replace Windows 8.1. There is obvious confusion as to why they followed Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 by omitting Windows 9 and going straight to 10, but this is Microsoft we’re dealing with here, they also omitted Windows 4, 5 and 6, going instead for Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP and Vista.
We’ve been beta testing Windows 10 since October. It’s a perfectly acceptable operating system, the most important feature of which is the return of the much beloved Start button, which Microsoft, in their wisdom, decided to remove from Windows 8 in an attempt to create a common user interface for desktop and tablet users.
Eight years ago Microsoft’s hugely successful Windows XP was replaced by their hugely unsuccessful Windows Vista, a slow, cumbersome beast, which was very late to market. As a consequence of that failure, the software behemoth upped their game with the release of Windows 7 in 2009, a fast, secure and familiar environment. At last users had a reason to move from XP.
As of December 2014, Windows 7 still has 56% of the world’s desktop operating system, but its replacement, Windows 8, combined with Windows 8.1, only has 13.5% market share – less than the no-longer secure Windows XP, which is still running on 18% of the world’s PCs.
Much to Microsoft’s frustration, the lesson from those who invest in technology is that they buy and keep what they like, and they’ll not deploy operating systems their users don’t like, such as Vista and Windows 8. Even today, over two years after the release of Windows 8, Dell’s business PCs ship with Windows 7 installed, and an upgrade licence for Windows 8.1.
Microsoft’s grip on the desktop and laptop markets, despite their flops, remains imperious. Apple have a little over 5% of the market, while Linux and others have 3.8%, leaving Microsoft with over 90% of the spoils, but it has single digit share of the tablet and smartphone markets.
As users live more of their lives on smartphones, the encroachment risk to Microsoft, primarily from Google’s Android, and to a lesser extent from Apple’s iOS, is clear.
In order to combat this risk, Windows 10 will run on desktops, tablets and smartphones. Software vendors will be able to write applications for desktops which will run, without modification, on Windows 10 smartphones.
This is the key play for Microsoft, if they can create an environment where your accounts software will run on your desktop and the phone in your pocket, they will leverage the huge legacy investment we have all made in desktop working to grab hold of our mobile lives.
Delivering on this strategy is so important to Microsoft, they are offering all Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users an upgrade to Windows 10 FREE OF CHARGE!
You may deduce that if Microsoft are offering their perennial cash-cow free of charge they are a worried collection of software developers. They are. This is a major gamble, and there is no guarantee it’s going to work. Some of our engineers are working with the beta trail of Windows 10, but I’ve no intentions of finding out how well, or otherwise, my laptop performs after a Windows 10 upgrade.
There is a methodology of PC design: know the specification of the operating systems which are going to run on it, test them and make sure all your components work. Microsoft are now offering us an operating system to run on PCs and laptops which have never been designed to run Windows 10. There are thousands of PC designs with tens of thousands of components, upgrades will be problematic.