Microsoft Windows 10 strategy
Microsoft’s hope that all the problems of Windows 8 will be forgotten about by missing out 9 and implementing a ‘generation shift’ to 10 might be a bit optimistic, but the details they have revealed at least show they back on the right track.
Windows 8 was a complete misfire, they treated the desktop like it was a tablet, and they just ended up confusing the user. It swung too far to the tablet and left the majority of its customers – the desktop users – out in the cold, like re-sizing tiles by touch, but it was clumsy when using a mouse. The way Microsoft mixed up the application tiles and the tiles for newsfeeds was very difficult to customise for the user. The charm bar was designed to allow you to change settings, but it did not allow you to configure like Apple does - it was too complicated. These were basic user design mistakes; it was a compromise, as if designed by committee. Teenagers at school learn that design is based around the user experience, that is where it starts and they forgot that basic principle. Windows 8 was out of touch with Microsoft’s users, it really needs to re-focus its creativity.
From what we have seen so far I think Microsoft has re-focused with Windows 10. It is not a radical new product, but it is a step in the right direction, they have recognised the need to get form and function in synch with the device.
Another one of the fundamental design principles in today’s digital world is using crowd innovation and it is heartening to see Microsoft inviting users to help design Windows 10 with its Windows Insider Programme. In other industry sectors this is common place to involve communities, the big leading brands like Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble have been using crowd innovation for some time. It is a two-way street; it gives the organisation free marketing because it brings its community on the product journey, while the company gets an infusion of more creative ideas. In the new world of digital developments this is basic best practice; listening to users and focusing on what the new generation of consumers want.
It remains to be seen whether this is the start of building a community of developers for Microsoft, as Apple and Android have done. There is a lot of catching up to do, the Microsoft apps market store is a mere 170,686 reported in September this year compared to an additional 1 million apps in the iOS and Android markets. It’s a symptom of mobile software app developers having largely shunned Microsoft, so opening up the development of Windows 10 is a step forward and could help their desire to be a multi-platform operator. Buying Minecraft-maker Mojang may also fit into this strategy as it will give Microsoft a huge user base, which they can work with and engage. It is all connected in digital world, the customer is a co-producer of the development cycle, the customer is part of the journey not separate - that is a big recognition by Microsoft.
There has been some criticism of Microsoft’s strategy to have the same operating system across all its devices, but I think it is a good idea, as we are seeing the convergence of networks, apps and different devices into the same digital space. Microsoft has to play to the strength they have in the PC market, where they have 92 per cent of the market. The demise of the PC and laptop has been predicted by many, but the tablet does not yet have the same usability features of the desktop and the ergonomics of Powerpoint and Word - most people ignore that. The PC is still strong and buoyant, in five years the tablet may have fine-tuned that and started to takeover, but for now Microsoft has to take care of that dominance and use that to potentially leverage that desktop strength and shift it into the mobile and tablet markets where they are not so strong. Azure has done well in the cloud battle and with Xbox Microsoft has the potential to create an ecosystem across all devices. It just needs to improve the usability of Windows across the devices.
It tried a one-size fits all approach with Windows 8, but with Windows 10 it appears Microsoft’s CEO, Nadella and his team have gone back to improving the usability specific to each device. It has reverted to getting the desktop to where it was and if can match that functionality across different platforms it will have a very strong future with Generation Z, who work across multiple channels multiple devices - they have to speak to that audience.