Paul Kilfoil's World of Travel, Technology & Sport

Posted on  by Paul Kilfoil.
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Microsoft recently announced that the next version of their flagship operating system would be called "Windows 10". That immediately sounded odd, because the current version of Windows is 8.1 so one would logically expect the next release to be Windows 9. What's up with that? No official explanation has been forthcoming as to why version 9 was skipped, but Microsoft seem to be punting this as a major new experience which warrants having a nice round number like 10. To quote from the Windows blog:

One way to look at it is that Windows is at a threshold. It's time for a new Windows. This new Windows must be built from the ground-up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. This new Windows must help our customers be productive in both their digital work and their digital life. This new Windows must empower people and organizations to do great things.
That new Windows is Windows 10.
Windows 10 represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows.

It is interesting to note that the word "new" appears no less than SIX times in these few sentences. Microsoft are certainly trying, in their best marketing-speak, to make it clear that this is a new era for the venerable old operating system that once ruled the roost in the PC world. But why is that? After all, Windows 8 was already quite a major departure from the style of Windows we've seen in the last several years. So what makes Microsoft think that another "brand new" version of Windows is needed?

Well, I can think of several reasons:

(1) Windows 8 was not at all well received. In fact, despite the re-introduction of features in Windows 8.1 that had been dropped, the paying public were very unhappy and expressed their dissatisfaction publicly in no uncertain terms.

A sneak preview of what Windows 10 will look like
... on a laptop and a mobile device

(2) Diminishing sales of desktop and laptop computers in the last few years, as well as furious competition from Google and Apple, has seen Microsoft's edge significantly eroded. It is also unlikely that this market will increase in the future, so there is limited opportunity for expansion.

(3) The rapidly-expanding smartphone and tablet world is dominated by Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems, despite costly efforts by Microsoft (such as the acquisition of Nokia) to get a foot in the door. Windows Phone has made little or no impression on the massive market share held by the big two in the mobile space. And the smartphone/tablet market is where the battle will be fought in the next few years.

So what's the prognosis for Windows 10? Hard to say, but the history of the IT industry has taught us that nobody responds better to challenges than Microsoft - they may make mistakes, but when they realize that a wrong decision has been made they turn round and focus the full might of their resources on the problem. That is a LOT of fire-power; just ask Netscape Communications (whose web browser had 90% of the market share until Microsoft destroyed them in the "browser wars" of the 1990's). And when Java looked like becoming the premier enterprise web development platform in the world, Microsoft came up with ASP.NET, Visual Studio.NET and C# (which I use every day, and I can confirm that it knocks spots off Java and Enterprise Java Beans).

So you may hate Windows 8 and love your Android phone and iPad, but don't write off Microsoft just yet. These guys don't give up without a fight, and they fight hard.

  © Paul Kilfoil, Cape Town, South Africa