The Pomp and Circumstance of Windows 9

It won’t be as big a deal as you might think, if all goes as planned.

win9

Microsoft is truly experiencing some monumental growing pains. Over the past seven years, its produced three version OS revisions – Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Two of the three releases – or 66% of their Windows related releases – were train wrecks. Thankfully, Office, though struggling to remain relevant with so many different and available free alternatives on the internet, hasn’t been as big of a problem.

Windows on the other hand… yeah. Microsoft will be happy to be past once of their more recent and much bigger OS mistakes. With their next release of Windows, currently known as Threshold, Microsoft is going to take a much different approach. Hopefully, they’ll be able to wash the stigma of Windows 8 away when Threshold makes its initial, public debut at the end of September – beginning of October 2014 with its Developer or Public Preview (whatever they decide to call the release).

According to Larry Dignan, Windows Threshold has a few key, critical points it needs to accomplish

– Microsoft needs to allow Windows 8 to die. The Vista analogies are really starting to be problematic
– Windows needs to find a way to be more touch centric
– Windows needs to find a better way to incorporate its ecosystem into its core functionality
– Windows needs to find a better way to incorporate faster releases into is development methodology
– Windows need to find a better way to be cloud focused

Obviously, Microsoft is hoping to find a better way to do all of these things with Threshold than with Windows 8; but as I said its not just Windows 8 that they need to live down, its much of what has happened with Windows since the release of Windows Vista in 2007, nearly 8 years from the initial introduction of Threshold. In this way, they can (hopefully and) finally leave Windows 8 behind.

While Windows has been touch capable since the original introduction of the TabletPC in 2000, the operating system hasn’t been really touch-centric at all. With the introduction of the iPad in 2010, Apple changed the way people interacted with their computers. Keyboards and mice are no longer required. Your finger is now your mouse, and an on-screen keyboard is great for short typing tasks. However, Windows really needs to change the way users interact with their computers. Right now, while you CAN use your finger to point and click, Windows isn’t optimized for touch, and its main method of interaction is not touch based (and that’s the biggest reason why Windows 8 is an Enterprise non-starter…). Until Windows is finger friendly, its going to have a problem in the consumer market where touch is becoming more mainstream.

One of the biggest problems Windows currently has is that its ecosystem is full of holes. Microsoft tried to lock it down with the implementation of Windows RT and the Windows Store; but as RT is a huge non-starter, I don’t see how Microsoft plans to fill them if the solution has anything to do with RT, but that’s another story.

Microsoft still has to figure out what to do with media – music, movies, TV – related content and how to bring that into both their mobile app and desktop app stores. Until they crack this nut, there’s going to be a huge problem with content sales in the Microsoft ecosystem. Currently, its very disjointed and very problematic. Whatever they do, they need to make sure that the store is unified and has content for both Windows Phone and Desktop Windows.

Microsoft’s development methodology and release schedule is also a concern at this time. They need to figure out how to provide more rapid releases; but they need to do it in a way where speed isn’t the only thing that people should see coming out of a new release schedule. Microsoft has to provide meaningful updates, features and patches quickly, in the same manner as Apple and many of the Linux distributions do.

There are rumors about Microsoft doing away with Patch Tuesday. While this may be a good thing – Microsoft needs to change the way the public views Windows and Windows Update – its got to be implemented the right way. Quicker is not necessarily better. Microsoft needs to figure out a way to eliminate security holes and other high ranking bugs internally, before they get out to the public.

To this end, they’re remaking the way they do testing. As this is an area of expertise for me, I’m interested in what they do and how they do it. Whatever their solution is, it needs to inspire a renewed sense of confidence in not only Windows and the rest of Microsoft’s products, but with the way Microsoft does business; and ultimately, in Microsoft itself.

Finally, Windows, and ultimately Microsoft, needs to find a way to be more cloud focused. Having a cloud based storage tool – Microsoft OneDrive – isn’t enough. Windows is local storage based and has been since 1990 blah, blah, blah. They need to figure out a way to be more cloud focused with their apps as well as with the data. Simply putting the data in a Dropbox-like cloud-based drive isn’t enough to make either Windows, Office, or any other Microsoft app, cloud focused. Cloud focused does not mean remote vs. local storage.

Microsoft has to provide a way to create and provide cloud based services that either don’t exist on the traditional Windows side of the world, or they need to provide new ones that replace their traditional products and services. Office 365 is a start, but its not the end of the story.

In the end, the results that Microsoft hopes to see and get from all of this is a de-emphasis of Windows – and every other Microsoft product, including Office – and a reemphasis on Microsoft as a company, service producer and cloud-based solution provider. To that end, you’ll notice that the next version of Windows as a product will be surrounded by less pomp and circumstance than previous versions; and that will be a very good thing. If there’s one thing that Satya Nadella knows, it’s the cloud. He’s been living in it for quite a few years at Microsoft. Hopefully, this new strategy will help Microsoft turn a corner and get its groove back.

What do you think? How should Microsoft handle the release of the next version of Windows? Should it be as cloud focused as I’m saying it should be? Is the status quo for Microsoft good enough? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on all of this? I’d love to hear from you.

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