Windows 10 – the successor to Windows 8 – becomes "generally available" to consumers today. Enterprises will get their variant in the October/November timeframe. Makers of desktop, laptop, and tablet computers are hoping Windows 10 will win back users lost through the Windows 8 debacle and, in so doing, reinvigorate the market with sales of new Windows-powered computing devices. Microsoft is pinning its future hopes on Windows 10 too, but this is not about recapturing the important mobile operating systems market (it has pretty much conceded that to Apple and Google), it is about gaining a strong foothold in the next multibillion-dollar market: the Internet of Things (IoT).
Microsoft tees up Windows 10 for the trillion-dollar Internet of Things
Windows 10 will underpin Microsoft's foray into the IoT by providing an operating system and ancillary services for "things" that do not resemble traditional computing devices. Microsoft was caught wrong-footed when Google harnessed the Linux kernel to produce the Android operating system that now dominates the smartphone market. But this time, with cloud-savvy Nadella at the helm, Microsoft is ready for action.
Microsoft envisages a range of devices and machines connecting to the IoT, so it has developed three distinct flavors of the Windows 10 operating system to target specific categories:
Windows 10 IoT for small devices with X86 or ARM processors, 256MB RAM, 2GB storage, no Shell, and universal apps and drivers
Windows 10 IoT for mobile devices with ARM processors, 512MB RAM, 4GB storage, Modern Shell, and universal apps and drivers
Windows 10 IoT for industry devices with X86 processors, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, Desktop Shell, Win32 apps, and universal apps and drivers.
Microsoft continues to remind partners and device builders that Windows 10 IoT is free for small devices, and is urging manufacturers to consider the Windows operating system as they build their new, intelligent, connected devices. These might range from familiar micro kiosks and home automation units, to new industrial machines, robotic systems, and innovative medical devices.
Microsoft did a good job of selling the idea of "One Windows" at its recent Worldwide Partner Conference, and demonstrated how companies might leverage the enterprise-grade capabilities of Windows 10 IoT to protect, secure, manage, and monitor IoT devices. However, the company is eager to inform the market that its IoT strategy extends beyond devices running Windows 10, pointing to Microsoft Azure IoT services.
Today, Azure IoT services are comprised of Azure Event Hubs, Azure DocumentDB, Azure Stream Analytics, Azure Notification Hubs, Azure Machine Learning, Azure HDInsight, and Microsoft Power BI. Microsoft clearly understands that many paths will open up along the IoT value chain, so it is building a range of components that partners can combine, enhance, and extend as the market evolves.
To the casual observer, it might seem that the high-tech industry thrives on newness and innovation, and yet familiarity and evolution are so important when it comes to engaging with the mainstream market that creates winners and losers. For Microsoft, Windows 10 – a product that is new, yet familiar – is the transit vehicle from the old world of connected PCs to the new world of connected things. Market acceptance is of huge importance to the company's current initiatives and its future prospects.
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Deploying IoT: Lessons from the Utilities Front Line, IT0002-000326 (July 2015)
Machine-to-Machine and IoT Contract Awards Tracker, TE0005-000724 (July 2015)
"Microsoft unveils holographic computing with HoloLens device," IT0022-000371 (May 2015)
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Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Mobility & Productivity