How Microsoft Got its Mojo Back

With the help of the feature-packed Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft is set to stage a major comeback.

By Zeid Nasser

Microsoft was the darling of the tech industry during the 80s and 90s. Infatuation with Bill Gates and his giant company was at least equal to today’s adoration of Google and Apple combined. But while Microsoft remained profitable as it moved beyond the Millennium, the excitement surrounding its products seem to have faded, hitting an absolute low in 2012 with the poorly-received Windows 8.

But lately, it seems the buzz that once surrounded Microsoft has returned. For proof, look no further than the media frenzy that greeted the announcement of the Windows 10 operating system and its innovative hologram platform.

Many believe Satya Nadella has played a big part in restoring a sense of coolness and desirability to Microsoft products since he took over as Microsoft CEO last year. “We want to move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows. That is our goal,” he said at the announcement of Windows 10.

Apparently he means it and is offering a quick opportunity to renew your ‘love vows’ with Windows 10 by making it free for a year if you’re a Windows 7 or 8 user. Imagine that, something free from Microsoft, the company that sells billions of dollars of software every year and ruthlessly pursues pirates and unlicensed users. Though this offer will only apply to individual users, not to businesses.

Next in Microsoft’s plan to win back your affection is killing every hated Windows 8 feature. The Start Screen is being replaced by the good-old Start Menu that can be expanded to full screen in tablet mode. Also gone are the ‘Metro’ full-screens apps, the Charms Menu, the People Hub, Windows RT and Explorer 10, which is being replaced by a new browser called Spartan. Several things will remain, but will have their name changed. Sky Drive will become One Drive, for example.

The voice-command assistant Cortana will also arrive in Windows 10, and so will a touch-based version of Office.

Also generating a great deal of interest are the holographic applications that work with Windows 10. Using a HoloLens, a headset for virtual reality and hologram collaboration, along with the software HoloStudio, which is a development tool to create applications, Microsoft could well succeed in bringing holographic apps to the masses.

But perhaps the most exciting and practical aspect of this re-invigorated Windows platform is that the same app you download from the Windows Store will work on both your PC and mobile device. That means one platform on multiple devices, and therein lies Microsoft’s biggest play for the future.

The maximum desired achievement for Microsoft would be to obtain a stronger position in this era of mobile devices, where it has lost ground. What better way to do so than to extend user love and loyalty from the desktop/laptop to the phone/tablet?

It gets better; even if you’re still not convinced about ‘going Windows’ on your mobile device, Microsoft is not fighting against your choice.

In another uncustomary act of generosity, Microsoft Office applications are now available free on iOS and Android devices. So you’ll become a Microsoft customer, even without using Windows. Office on iPad and iPhone is already a success, with Nadella announcing that the software suite has more than 80 million users, while the Android version was just launched at the end of January and aims to hit similar user numbers.

Clearly, this aggressive and multi-dimensional strategy reveals that Microsoft is treating Windows 10 as a make-or-break release for its operating systems business. Microsoft needs to maintain, then grow, its Windows-installed base to be able to sell its subscription cloud services, like Office 365. And there’s also the possibility of users paying for their Windows 10 license after 12 months.

Additionally, Microsoft is betting that businesses now using Windows 7 will want Windows 10 in the next 12 months, making up for the loss of revenue to individuals. Typically, the IT upgrade cycle takes around three years, which means the success of this strategy will depend on the percentage of IT departments ready to upgrade within a year.

All these initiatives and developments by Microsoft give IT department heads and chief information officers something to think about. On the one hand, there’s the old saying that ‘no one got fired for buying Microsoft,’ but on the other hand the tech industry has moved on and the philosophy of open systems server architecture and the proliferation of multi-OS devices means they can pick-and-chose what they want from Microsoft and others.

So although technology decision makers might not necessarily fall completely in love with Windows 10, there’s definitely much less to hate about the Windows platform and there’s a chance to rebuild lost affection along with Microsoft’s profits and future role in the technology industry.