"We want to move from people who need Windows to Windows and Windows, which is our bold goal," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella three years ago. At the time Microsoft revealed more details about Windows 10 and surprised people with technologies like the HoloLens headset. It was an exciting time of opportunity and optimism, with Microsoft betting that Windows users would use Windows 10 on 1 billion devices within three years. No effort has been made – that's fine because Windows, as we know it, is no longer critical to Microsoft's future success.
Microsoft announced a new reorganization yesterday. It is the fourth major shuffle in the company in the last five years and the most important of Nadella's tenure. Microsoft divides Windows company-wide into different parts. Terry Myerson, a 21
The first big indication of the future of the operating system is that Microsoft's "Windows and Devices Group" now "Experiences & Devices "and includes Windows, Office and Surface. Rajesh Jha, head of Microsoft's Office, is now responsible for the entire department, and Joe Belfiore is delegated to oversee the Windows experience. Myerson used to be on the senior leadership team at Microsoft, but no one with Windows in his position should replace him. Jha, who is also a senior executive, simply extends his responsibilities to look after a larger team in which Windows is a smaller piece of the larger cake.
Experience instead of Windows is also a great indication of how Microsoft and Nadella see the operating system in the broader aspect of computing in general. Android has 2 billion active devices per month and more than 1 billion Apple devices are actively used worldwide. Microsoft always claims that 1.5 billion people use Windows, although there are signs that the number might decrease. Windows 10 now runs on more than 600 million devices (as of November), including PCs, tablets, Xbox One consoles, HoloLens headsets, and even Surface Hub devices and phones. Microsoft's own Windows trends show that Windows 10 was already running at 45 percent of all PCs and tablets in November, meaning that the total Windows usage could actually have slipped to 1.33 billion.
600 million Windows 10 users are still a large number, but it's just over half of Microsoft's original target. Microsoft had three years to reach the $ 1 billion goal, but it was clear that Windows Phone was a success. The software maker gave up his daring goal in just one year and blamed the business failures on his phone. As a result of a lack of mobile device, Windows is no longer the dominant method of using computers, and Microsoft is now tracking "experiences" across devices. Even the Xbox department is gearing up for cloud gaming and a future beyond the Xbox itself.
Microsoft, which is withdrawing from its bold target, is only part of the attempt to win consumers for years, and is part of a recent broader retreat last year. The software giant has abolished its streaming music platform Groove Music in favor of Spotify. Kinect is officially dead, and Microsoft has finally confirmed the death of Windows Phone. Microsoft now wants iOS and Android devices to work better with Windows 10, and the company has realized that with the rise of mobile phones, it is no longer the most widely used computing platform.
The last three years have been trying to make Windows a platform that is loved by consumers, but it was difficult without Windows Phone playing a central role. Windows 10 focused on "YouTubers" last year, with two major updates that added mixed reality, 3D paint creation, and pen / touch enhancements. Universal Windows Apps should be the future of Windows on multiple devices, but they have been made to work largely without a widespread mobile operating system. Developers are mainly packaging existing desktop apps for the Microsoft Store, and the future of Windows 10 apps seems to be centering around web apps.
Windows is certainly more respected than it was three years ago. Windows 10 was an impressive return from the controversial version of Windows 8. Microsoft has heard those who still use Windows, and it has adapted the operating system with care. But while Microsoft was always obsessed with Windows, especially Ballmer, it is clear that Nadella sees the future differently – and rightly so. Microsoft's cloud business has grown massively, competes directly with Amazon's dominance and beats Google.
Windows is not dead, but for Microsoft it's obviously not that important anymore and it will take on a whole different role in the future play the company. Microsoft needs to deliver and deploy cloud services and apps to users on the platforms they use. The company has enjoyed great success with Office 365 and apps such as Outlook for mobile devices, and Microsoft expects two-thirds of its Office users to switch to its subscription cloud service next year.
Windows is being adapted for new devices and scenarios, but it's no longer the core of Microsoft's business and has not been around for years. Nadella says, "The future of Windows is good," but in the same sentence he says Microsoft will "more deeply" connect Windows to its Microsoft 365 offering. Microsoft 365 enables companies to buy Office and Windows together in a single subscription.
Consumers are no longer interested in Windows, and I've long argued that Microsoft should insist on providing it with everything. Consumers are no longer interested in buying devices for familiarity or compatibility with Windows, and it's hard to even list ten desktop apps that I really need on a daily basis. One big exception is gaming, but Microsoft has not developed enough innovations on gaming PCs to really promote it. Gaming PCs simply run on Windows because it's the platform to deliver these games, and we're starting to see how mobile operating systems are catching up fast. Thanks to the Web and Chrome, it's easy to imagine a future where services are far more important than the operating system they're running on.
Now that Microsoft has moved the core of Windows into the cloud team, it's easy to see Windows's long-term future as a cloud subscription service for the people who really need it instead of using it. Bill Gates has figured out how to put a computer on every desk and in every home, and now the company is ready to grow and tackle the future. It is not the old and trusted Windows operating system that Microsoft will bring there.