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Windows 10: Microsoft Gets A Makeover

Microsoft knows it messed up with Windows 8 and 8.1. Is Windows 10 the answer to its problems?

Windows 10: 9 Killer Features
Windows 10: 9 Killer Features
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

In the wake of Microsoft's recent Windows 10 announcements, consumers and businesses are eager to try the mobile and desktop versions of the new OS. While the new features are exciting, they're only a small indication of what the tech world will see later this year.

"Microsoft had a very intriguing announcement around Windows 10," says Brian Blau, research director of consumer technology and markets at Gartner. "They've sort of leapfrogged mobile and are focusing on the core user experience."

Microsoft has acknowledged that its approach to developing Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 wasn't very effective. The announcements surrounding Windows 10 reflect a modernized strategy and narrowed focus on enabling Microsoft's customers to better interact with its devices and apps throughout the entire product line.

This universal app strategy, which encompasses all platforms supporting Windows 10, will set Microsoft apart. "Having that cross-platform is, I think, really interesting for Microsoft," says Blau, noting that no other tech vendor offers such tight integration among devices.  

(Image: Microsoft)
(Image: Microsoft)

Blau, who attended the press event held Wednesday at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters, speaks to the effectiveness of Microsoft's interconnected strategy after seeing the demos held after the show. The presentations were compelling, he says, and the device experience easily translated among tablets, PCs, and smartphones. Although he describes a complete change in Microsoft's user experience based on witnessing the demos, Blau was not allowed to test the features himself.

"It's not ready yet," he says of the desktop and mobile upgrades. Because Microsoft is revealing few new details on Windows 10 over the course of development, it's hard to know exactly what will be included in the mobile OS until the tech giant releases its preview code in February. The desktop preview, fortunately, will arrive sooner.

Blau notes that Microsoft's strategy for developing Windows 10 is drastically different from its approach to previous operating systems, specifically in regard to users' opinions. "Individually, product managers and employees said the feedback program is really different for them," he says of his conversations at the event. "They're understanding more about what people want."

Those who buy into the Microsoft ecosystem will benefit from familiarity across devices. The universal apps and device integration could make a difference in boosting the popularity of Windows Phone, which currently lags far behind iPhone and Android in terms of marketshare.

[Windows 10: 9 Killer Features]

Blau describes Apple's long history, its loyal following, and the great ecosystem that is not completely unfamiliar across devices. It seems that Microsoft is attempting to emulate this for Windows, he says, and the company is on the right track. Its strategy of consulting Windows Insiders for feedback is a sign that it's catering to loyal Windows users. If Microsoft can create a compelling ecosystem, Blau predicts it will be attractive to Apple users.

Those watching Microsoft's progress, including Blau, won't be watching PCs or smartphones. They'll be looking to see how the entire device ecosystem proliferates over time. When will we learn more? After the next Insider preview releases, he anticipates that Microsoft will continue to build upon its most recent announcements at its Build 2015 conference in April.

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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David Wagner
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 3:10:25 PM
Re: Microsoft should go after its own customers, not Apple's
@Charlie- I don't think this time around they are going after Apple's customers so much as Apple's seamless use. I find Apple to be underpowered, but I know when I sit down to one of their things it is like all their other things. For a long time the Windows experience changed across platform. There's no need for that. If they get that right, they'll have plenty of their own customers left. I still, however, wonder where the money is if they never get a mobile phone market share.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
1/26/2015 | 6:59:45 PM
Microsoft should go after its own customers, not Apple's
Yes, Apple has a loyal following, but Microsoft helped enlarge its customer base by not playing to its own strengths sooner than it did. The last phase of the Ballmer era was marked by Apple-envy, leading to Windows 8. I remember him being asked at a Churchill Club dinner in Santa Clara, what were the most important changes in Windows 8 and he answered, "Touchscreen, touchscreen, touchscreen." He got his message across, but not his operating system. The Microsoft customer is potentially a different customer than Apple's. It used to be and could again be a large, and large spending set of customers, if Microsoft would just give them a reason to be. 
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