Win­dows’ big test

The next ma­jor re­lease of Mi­crosoft’s flag­ship op­er­at­ing sys­tem, Win­dows 9, is be­ing pushed for an early re­lease next year and is a crit­i­cal mile­stone for the com­pany that de­fined per­sonal com­put­ing for more than two decades.

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE - si­mond@fin­

To say that Win­dows 8 has not been the most loved Mi­crosoft prod­uct of all time would be an un­der­state­ment. If on­line chan­nels are any­thing to go by, most new users hate the op­er­at­ing sys­tem and stats show that it still rep­re­sents less than half the in­stall base of Win­dows XP – which is now a decade out of date. It’s no sur­prise, then, that Mi­crosoft is push­ing for an early re­lease of Win­dows 9, which is sched­uled for early next year. How­ever, will the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem be enough to keep Mi­crosoft rel­e­vant?

The pat­tern for Win­dows re­leases has been less than a com­fort­able one for Mi­crosoft. The cy­cle gen­er­ally con­sists of the soft­ware gi­ant re­leas­ing ver­sions of Win­dows that the mar­ket hates and then sub­se­quent re­leases that are only mi­nor im­prove­ments, but which are well re­ceived. Every­one hated Win­dows Vista but then hailed Win­dows 7 – which was pretty much the same deal – as the best ver­sion ever. Peo­ple hate Win­dows 8 and many busi­nesses have opted to skip it en­tirely and wait for 9 – which is un­likely to be very dif­fer­ent.

What has changed, how­ever, is that Mi­crosoft is now up against a for­mi­da­ble ri­val in the form of Ap­ple, which gives away its op­er­at­ing sys­tems for free and is break­ing records for grow­ing sales of its Mac com­put­ers. On the other hand, both Ap­ple and Google con­trol the mo­bile mar­ket where many are find­ing bet­ter al­ter­na­tives to tra­di­tional per­sonal com­put­ers.

We don’t know much about Win­dows 9 ex­cept that it would have to try hard to do as badly as Win­dows 8 has. It’s also ru­moured to in­clude Cor­tana – Mi­crosoft’s new vir­tual as­sis­tant de­signed to com­pete with Ap­ple’s Siri – as a cen­tral fea­ture. We will see a pre­view of Win­dows 9 – code named ‘Thresh­old’ – later this year and a full re­lease is planned for some time in 2015.

The com­pany’s new CEO Satya Nadella has made some bold state­ments about re­fo­cus­ing Mi­crosoft on its pro­duc­tiv­ity of­fer­ings and less on his pre­de­ces­sor’s de­sire to be­come a hard­ware prod­uct and ser­vices com­pany. Win­dows is still the world’s most widely used com­puter op­er­at­ing sys­tem, how­ever, and a cor­ner­stone of Mi­crosoft’s busi­ness.

So it’s all eyes on Win­dows 9, and many busi­nesses are wait­ing to see what the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem holds for them. It doesn’t have the stran­gle­hold on the mar­ket it once did, how­ever, and I sus­pect many will be look­ing at the other al­ter­na­tives.

Mi­crosoft CEO Satya Nadella

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