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On Wednesday, 21 January, Microsoft will hold an event at its Redmond campus to reveal more aspects of Windows 10. It is expected that senior leaders from the company’s Operating Systems Group will talk about the new operating system from the viewpoint of the consumer rather than the employee, but CIOs and corporate IT managers should monitor this event closely, as every employee is first and foremost a consumer, with all the attendant habits that come with this. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, did not participate in the unveiling of Windows 10 back in September, but he is expected to talk at Wednesday’s event, which is to be webcast live at 9.00am Pacific Standard Time.

Microsoft Windows: The next chapter

Microsoft is no stranger to "debacles" where Windows is concerned (remember Windows Vista), but the effort, resources, and time required to extricate the company from such predicaments increases with every occurrence. Indeed, the last occasion led Microsoft to find a new CEO to steer the company away from the proverbial rocks. But in answer to the question posed, yes, Microsoft can recover, but it will need to plot a new, bold course for its operating systems strategy.

Getting Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10 is not going to be easy, as Microsoft needs to consider two interconnected markets: consumer and business users, with each presenting a particular set of challenges and opportunities vis-a-vis Windows 7, 8, and 10. Ovum’s research data indicates that businesses and institutions will continue to deploy Windows 7 for the time being, even though mainstream support has now ended. Windows 7 will reach its "use-by-date" in 2020, so by the time the new OS ships, Microsoft will only have four years to influence this important market.

The typical consumer has no real choice when it comes to selecting the operating system of a new PC, as they get whichever version Microsoft is shipping via its OEMs. But consumers do now have an alternative to the PC – the tablet computer. The tablet market has matured considerably in the two-and-a-bit years since Microsoft released Windows 8, and consumers with modest "computing" needs and low levels of IT know-how will continue to go down this route.

Low-cost, high-quality tablets running Windows are now available, of course, but Ovum believes that Microsoft must radically reduce the complexity of its underlying tablet OS to compete against Apple and Android devices. All is not lost if the Windows tablet market flops, as Microsoft can generate revenue from non-Windows devices through its services, such as Office 365 and Intune, but the thought of losing control of the premium end-user computing domain is anathema to Microsoft.

Every employee is first and foremost a consumer, so the success of Windows 10 in the consumer market is important for Microsoft. If an influential or "empowered" individual sees potential business value in Windows 10, then this person will advocate it in the workplace. Microsoft has struggled to articulate the "business value" of its operating systems in the past, but the leap from Windows 8 to Windows 10 suggests that Microsoft thinks it can do better this time.

Microsoft is already providing Windows at "zero cost" on certain device form factors, but the company has not stopped looking for new ways to generate revenue from its client operating systems. We already know that Microsoft is building a single app store to coincide with this release of Windows, but it could also link Windows 10 upgrades to new products and offerings (such as Desktop-as-a-Service, Microsoft Health, Microsoft Multiscreen TV, and Microsoft Home Automation), as well as to existing offerings (such as Office 365, Intune, Xbox Music, and Microsoft Band). New hardware from Microsoft and its partners could also provide a boost for Windows 10 when it launches later this year, especially if it straddles both consumer and business markets.

CIOs and IT managers of large and medium-sized enterprises will no doubt monitor the Windows 10 event with little expectation of an immediate impact on their organizations. However, if Microsoft announces something that could have a material effect on end-user computing infrastructure, especially its budget, then this constituency will sit up and take notice.


Further reading

2015 Trends to Watch: Enterprise Collaboration and Productivity, IT0021-000048 (December 2014)

2015 ICT Enterprise Insights on Enterprise Collaboration, IT0021-000039 (November 2014)

Office 365: Email Migration, Coexistence, and Adoption, IT0021-000035 (October 2014)

Microsoft announces Windows 10, but enterprises still left wanting a fully supported, viable PC OS, IT0018-001456 (October 2014)

The New Digital Workspace: An Opportunity Not to Be Squandered, IT0021-000016 (August 2014)


Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Ovum Enterprise Mobility & Productivity.

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