When Satya Nadella was appointed to the top job at Microsoft Corporation last year, his primary focus was to change the fortunes of the technology behemoth and utilise the talent, resources, creativity and innovation the company had.
Chris Muronzi, recently in Nairobi, Kenya
He came in at a time Microsoft, a global leader in PC operating systems, was failing to make its mark in mobile phone operating systems.
Microsoft develops, manufactures, licenses, supports and sells computer software, consumer electronics and personal computers and services.
Its best known software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, Microsoft Office suite, and the Internet Explorer web browser.
On the hardware side, its flagship products are the Xbox game consoles and the Microsoft Surface tablet lineup. It is the world’s largest software maker in terms of revenue.
In versions such as Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft had made a lot of promises but had really not walked the talk, consumers felt.
Any suggestion that Microsoft would be competing for a piece of the mobile phone operating system market a decade ago would have been laughed off quite easily at its Redmond Campus headquarters.
The company was sitting pretty on the PC operating systems side, with the bulk of computers running on its various windows programmes.
Only Apple computers were running on their own operating systems, the OS X (formerly the Mac OS X).
Others were running on Linux. Linux was originally developed as a free operating system for personal computers based on the Intel x86 architecture, but has since been ported to more computer hardware platforms than any other operating system.
With the emergence of smartphones, the need to respond to the new market needs dawned. Various other smaller players jumped and seized such opportunities. Microsoft offered its Windows 7 and 8 operating systems in the belief the company would have the same success it had enjoyed on the Pc operating systems side with such bold innovations. It had hoped the new operating systems would achieve the same level of popularity with mobile consumers.
Windows 8 had been particularly designed to tap and embrace mobile and mobile apps, work well on touchscreens as well as laptops, and form the basis of a new phone platform. But it didn’t exactly do the trick.
Where other smartphone vendors offered the Android operating system, Microsoft offered a new interface that asked its users to forget their old “point-and-click” ways and embrace a tiled future.
What was a brave move strategically to enter world of touch screens and connected apps through Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 failed. Users roundly rejected the new version of Windows. Android, on the other hand, enjoyed a sort of cultish acceptance on both smartphone and tablets.
Another version, 8.1, attempted to reverse the company’s waning fortunes, but with limited success.
Consumer demand vs product
The consumer had spoken. Like Vista before it and Windows ME before that, Windows 8 was the version of Windows users passed.
Android is a mobile operating system (OS) based on the Linux kernel and currently developed by Google.
The mobile operating system has a user interface based on direct manipulation designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.
The operating system uses touch inputs that loosely correspond to real-world actions, like swiping, tapping, pinching, and reverse pinching to manipulate on-screen objects, and a virtual keyboard.
Despite being primarily designed for touchscreen input, it has also been used in game consoles, digital cameras, regular PCs and other electronics. Currently, Android has the largest installed base of all operating systems as it is the most popular mobile operating system in the vast majority of countries.
Android phones had 78% share of shipments in Q1 FY15 of the global market, while Windows had a 2,7% share.
Now, it seems Windows 10 has made good on all the promises of a synergistic ecosystem of like-minded devices designed to work together. At the launch last week of Windows 10 in Nairobi, Kenya, the revolutionary operating system which can be used on all platforms such as mobile, Pc and tablet, Nadella showed off the new baby.
“We gonna have sensors, tablets, we gonna have pcs, we gonna have holographic computers and Windows 10 is built for all the devices in our lives. Its fast, its familiar, its secure, its productive and most of all innovative,” he said.
To illustrate this Nadella called on stage two young Kenyan primary school girls, who could not have been more than 12.
He was making a point; even young African school girls could use Windows 10. And the girls did not let him down.
The young girls displayed in-depth appreciation of the new OS and showed off some of the highlights of the system such as the new smart and slick Edge browser.
Essentially, the girls had mastered Windows 10 in a few hours.
Microsoft Corp Windows Division director for West, East Central Africa and Indian Oceans Rotimi Olumide unveiled the Windows 10 in the city saying it would be available as a free upgrade or with new PCs and tablets.
Olumide said: “It’s a very important day for Microsoft as we celebrate the launch of Microsoft Windows 10. We believe in Windows 10. We are introducing a very interesting and more significant personal computing which enables people to do more.”
Windows 10 includes innovations such as Cortana, an Xbox app and Microsoft Edge for a familiar, yet more personal and productive, experience.
The most secure Windows ever, Windows 10 is delivered as a service and kept automatically up-to-date with innovations and security updates. It offers one experience that will become available on the broadest range of devices, including PCs, tablets, phones, Raspberry Pi, Xbox One, HoloLens and more — with more than 2 000 devices or configurations already in testing.
The new Windows Store and Windows Software Development Kit also become available last Wednesday, opening the door to new and innovative app experiences on Windows 10.
The new Edge browser is cool, fast and light. When one wants to search, it automatically defaults to the Edge browser.
This should see Microsoft not only clawing back market share in its core operating system business but also add on new users to its browser.
According to netmarketshare.com, the different versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still account for over 52% of global web traffic. Mozilla’s Firefox is just under 10%, while Google’s Chrome browser has over 17% of the share. Judging by the statics, Internet Explorer is still popular but has not endeared itself to critical users.
Against such a background, one doesn’t need to visit the genius pub to figure out why Microsoft decided to develop a whole new browser and not worry about upgrading its Internet Explorer.
In Windows 10, Microsoft has killed two birds with one stone; addressed previous concerns on Windows 7 and 8 and also dealt with the browser problems associated with its Microsoft Explorer. But not everyone is as thrilled with Windows 10.
Competition appears to be quaking in its boots. Mozilla Firefox, a tech company that rose to prominence on the back of Microsoft’s failure to upgrade its Internet Explorer, is crying foul over the Edge default settings.
In an open letter to Nadella just after the Windows 10 launch, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard called this lack of choice a very “disturbing aspect of Windows 10”.
“The update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have,” he says in the post published on July 30, a day after the launch.
Above all, Windows 10 is familiar and easy to use, with lots of similarities to Windows 7, including the Start menu. It starts up and resumes fast, has more built-in security and is designed to work with software and hardware a user already has. Microsoft Edge, the new browser, lets users move quickly from browsing to doing.
The OS has many options such as write or type notes directly on webpages and sharing with others, read online articles free of distraction, and save one’s favourite reads for convenient access later.
It allows users to write on a webpage, swipe through photos, and snap apps into place. It has the option to use the keyboard or the touch keyboard on devices with touch. And if one has the artistic urge, a pen to draw naturally is available.
Just by talking, a user can ask Cortana, a digital personal assistant, to set a reminder or write an email, and chat with friends and family on Skype. Like Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs, Nadella and team realised that the winning formula was in creating a product or service that the consumer really needed.
Prior to the launch, Microsoft had taken it’s time to develop a new Operating System with five million Windows insiders, users who signed up to give feedback on what they wanted to see in the new invention. And the results of Microsoft’s work went on display last Wednesday in 13 cities as Windows 10 was launched to millions of people around the world.
In Windows 10, the market spoke and Microsoft listened.
Windows 10 will be updated like a service for the next 10 years, management said.