Wake Me For Windows 11

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The last Apple product I bought was a classic iPod. I don’t buy into iOS, but I certainly do respect Apple. Many believe this act of defiance makes me a Microsoft fan. I do buy their products, but respect is waning.

Actually, I think loyalty is overrated. It’s a great concept, and works well in many situations. However, technology and airlines are dubious examples. Technology changes too quickly. Loyalty gets earned based on something unrelated to the current needs or offer. With airlines, loyalty makes an abusive relationship less intolerable – hardly a good thing.

Yesterday Microsoft had a big day – the company previewed what we can expect to see soon in the next generation of the most popular operating system in the world. My response: yawn! With the exception of the new HoloLens, there was very little news yesterday. I hoped for more.

The Verge identifies the 9 biggest announcements made at the event, so let’s use their nine (in bold) as an objective starting point.

  1. New look, old start menu. Yes, the biggest innovation from Windows 95 which was mistakenly dropped in Windows 8 is back. This was expected. Partly because it was among the big reasons why the world ignored Windows 8. Also because Microsoft already previewed this.
  2. Desktop on your phone. Windows 8 brought the same look and feel for both desktop and tablet, but ignored (like we all do) Windows Phone. Of course we all knew the vision that Microsoft would tie all these devices together in a single operating system. It’s just that many of us thought it would go a bit faster.
  3. Cortana on your desktop. Apple and Google both have a speech interface. It’s hardly a mature technology but can be useful for certain interactions. I’ve never used Cortana, but I hear it is even more frustrating than the others. Cortana has slowly been working its way out of the labs into products, so this was reasonably expected as well.
  4. Want to run PowerPoint from a phone? Not particularly. I have enough trouble running PowerPoint from my Surface Pro. But as BusinessInsider reported, “we can’t even remember the last time we saw someone under 30 fire up a PowerPoint.” Actually, this feature is not about PowerPoint (or its rumored replacement Sway), but about Microsoft’s Unified Office vision of the same Office apps on desktops and mobiles (see point 2 above).It is a powerful vision. I know this because I really do appreciate having access to my content and Google Apps on multiple devices including Windows machines, Android devices, and my Chromebook.
  5. Internet Explorer is over. Say hello to Project Spartan. Again, already leaked. IE was a great product and also why the revolutionary Netscape no longer exists. But IE got neglected and other browsers, particularly Chrome, raised the bar. The obvious response is to fix IE, unless Microsoft feels it is so damaged (like Windows 8) that it is easier to just skip to something new.
  6. A bigger role for OneDrive. No surprise here. Shared drive is the glue that makes mobile devices stick. It is all the rage for several years now. Of course OneDrive is very strategic which is why DropBox, Box, Google, and Amazon are all competing to give away unlimited storage.
  7. Your PC is now your Xbox.  This is clever, but not particularly relevant to business users. Games for Windows Live was “horrible” and Xbox is an unqualified success, so Microsoft is leveraging its Xbox momentum by virtualizing XBox on Windows. Very strategic, and will be fun and important for other people.
  8. Microsoft made a giant touchscreen TV. This is the most significant news in terms of enterprise communications. This comes from Microsoft’s 2012 acquisition of Perceptive Pixel. This solution is currently filled by Microsoft partners that offer Lync Room Systems. The Smart board for example, runs Lync, has proximity sensors, a giant touch screen, cameras, and markers. The new Surface Hub offers all that plus NFC. It probably offers a bit more, but since it was running next generation Skype for Business it is hard to say what the differences are.  It’s probably bad news for Crestron/Polycom, but I will be surprised if the Surface Hub can out-collab Smart.  I will address Surface Hub in a separate post.
  9. Microsoft’s virtual reality headset is here – and it’s augmented reality. HoloLens may or may not prove to be significant, but unlikely to be of any interest to enterprise communications in the near future. More likely to be useful out of this world.

In summary, of these 9 key features identified by The Verge, I consider the Surface Hub relevant professionally. I’ve already got a start menu and OneDrive on Windows 7. I am neutral on Cortana and Project Spartan, and can’t imagine that an MS Phone, Virtual Xbox, or HoloLens will ever impact me. Does the future of computing have to be so boring?

Within all this there’s a few concerning themes.

  • Microsoft gets accused of being a laggard and it is getting hard to defend them. This was a preview, not a release. A preview for Windows 10 as a mass market replacement for Windows 7 (launched October 2009 – SP1 in 2011). Microsoft skipped Windows 9 and is effectively abandoning Windows 8 (just as it abandoned Vista). In this preview we see Cortana (Apple announced Siri in 2011) and a more Chrome-like browser (Google launched Chrome 2008).
  • A key part of the Windows 10 strategy involves Office365 which offers a similar value value prop to Google Apps (launched in 2006) and OneDrive (Dropbox founded in 2007). Most of the exciting things that Microsoft is doing is simply catching up. The most innovative of the the above is the HoloLens which is best described as a cross between Google Glass (EoL) and Oculus.
  • The bundling force remains strong in this one. It was the bundling of Word and Excel that killed WordPerfect and Lotus. It was also bundling that contributed to Lync’s spectacular growth. This Windows event spread its tentacles into Office, Skype for Business, OneNote, and more… Where’s the integrations to Salesforce, SAP, Evernote, Cisco, Google Apps?  Bundling is fair game, but Windows as a platform is what made it great.
  • Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for a year. I actually find this disconcerting too. I am pretty happy with WIndows 7. It runs all of my collaboration apps plus Office, Chrome, and Evernote. I’ve got 3 x 4k monitors hooked up to it. It has plenty of space and USB-3 ports. I’m not wanting for an upgrade.
    Two things drive upgrades: capacity issues including performance and new features. I don’t have the former and Microsoft isn’t offering the latter. I understand why Netflix or Facebook do free upgrades, because upgrades drive engagement and their business models are based on usage. Microsoft’s revenue model is built on software sales. So why is Microsoft spending who knows how much to develop a free product? Makes me wonder.

Windows is very important to the enterprise (and my own) world. It’s unfortunate that Windows 8 didn’t work – I was hopeful, but it definitely missed the mark. That’s why I opened with loyalty. Just because I have Windows 7 doesn’t mean I will have Windows 8, or 10. Each upgrade needs to be evaluated and selected on its own merit.

I hope Windows 10 is a huge success. However, the alternatives to a Windows based world have never been greater, so I was hopeful for more sizzle and steak, but looks like hamburger again.

Dave Michels