Yesterday saw Microsoft reveal more details about the upcoming Windows 10 OS. After two years of limited success with Windows 8, Microsoft has sought to recapture its audience with a return to the familiar with the reintroduction of the Start button as an integral feature, as well as expanding the system to serve as a unified platform across all form factors. In addition to improving the functionality of the Action Center, Windows 10 will also incorporate Cortana across form factors, including the PC. With this suite of features and improvements, Microsoft hopes that it can leverage its position as market leader among PCs to increase its mobile market share, which has languished in the single digits since launching.
Shifting towards a unified experience
One of the more profound elements to Windows 10 is that, unlike Windows 8, the OS moves beyond a limited set of devices to encompass a much broader spectrum of options. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella emphasized this point, stating that the notion of mobility that the firm is pursuing is not so much about mobility of computing on a given device, but rather, “the mobility of experience across devices.” Taking cues from how Apple has moved to allow for seamless transitioning between devices with applications, Microsoft aims to increase the fluidity of the OS experience as it continues its shift towards its goal of “Windows-as-a-service.” This is a much-needed transition for Microsoft, which has struggled to overcome a reactionary approach to the market, especially as end-users are frequently looking to take their work from one form factor to the next. The reality is one where the device itself is becoming less central to the process, as the market for current enterprise form factors has matured considerably, becoming fairly homogenous in the process.
The return of the prodigal OS
There has been considerable buzz around Windows 10 among both consumer and enterprise end-users. For the latter, it has been a prolonged period of wait and see; there has been a reluctance to adopt Android due to concerns around security, the complexity of migrating legacy applications, and considerable OS fragmentation. Nevertheless, Tier-1 and Tier-2 companies in North America are following their European counterparts’ lead in overcoming their reluctance to adopt Android. Still – many express a desire for Windows. If Microsoft can provide the OS to enterprise in a timely manner, the move could sap much of Android’s enterprise momentum, especially in the rugged sphere, as 2015 increasingly looks to be a key turning point for the enterprise market. Microsoft’s announcement that the OS will be provided gratis to users of Windows 7 and 8 will likely help the OS gain traction quickly.
Windows 10 beefs up its EMM capabilities
While Microsoft has struggled with its mobile initiatives in recent years, its long history serving the technology infrastructure needs of large organizations puts Microsoft in a strong position to deliver enterprise mobility solutions in the coming years. With its upcoming Windows 10 release, Microsoft plans key security enhancements and options that are requisite in heterogeneous mobile deployment environments. The Windows 10 release will feature sophisticated containerization capabilities that will give enterprises more control over their content, allowing for content to be marked as corporate, encrypted, and then be wiped if the relationship between the corporation and user has ended. Preventing data leakage has been a key area of focus in Windows 10; corporate data can be identified as corporate vs. user, encrypted, and wiped on command. The 10 release will further expand into biometric capabilities and enable authentication with your biometric identity anywhere in Windows (Windows sign-in, remote access, User Account Control, etc.). App management features also take advantage of 10's biometrics and can be incorporated for Windows Store apps, functions within them, and be used to control certificates. VDC sees the aforementioned containerization features and a refresh of its System Center Configuration Manager software (along with ensuring the legacy SCCM 2007 release is compatible with Windows 10) as critical success factors; Microsoft’s Intune device management platform must also evolve and incorporate more cross platform capabilities. We expect tight integration of its prolific Microsoft products (Outlook, Office, and SharePoint) in the 10 release – if Microsoft can deliver the consistent and familiar experience across platforms that it promises, the vendor will almost be guaranteed to be a viable contender in the enterprise mobility market.
Bringing innovation back
Microsoft topped off its Windows 10 event with by revealing the HoloLens, an augmented reality HUD that incorporates holographs and floating video feed capabilities for enhanced two-way communication. Although still in its infancy, the technology presents enterprise potential, much in the way that mounted wearables are currently testing the waters. While the payoff for Microsoft will likely be far from immediate, it marks a profound shift for the firm and a decisive break from the Ballmer era and a transition back towards innovation. In a rapidly shifting market where older firms like HP and BlackBerry are struggling to remain relevant, Microsoft is keen to shed its image as a reactionary relic of a bygone era. Yesterday’s announcement is definitely a step in the right direction.
With Eric Klein, Senior Analyst