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.
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system and stats show that it still represents less than half the install base of Windows XP – which is now a decade out of date.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