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Microsoft Corp announced plans to release its latest operating system (OS), Windows 10, in 2015. The naming is significant itself, as the company has jumped from its current Windows 8 to Windows 10. Microsoft claims that the changes and improvement to the fledgling OS deserve significant recognition, thus bypassing the nine denomination.
Windows is omnipresent, on almost all laptops and netbooks. However, Microsoft struggles to gain traction in high growth areas like smartphones, dominated by Android and Apple Inc’s iOS. Moving forward, the company is banking on Windows 10 to help penetrate mobile devices.
Android and iOS have an extensive ecosystem of third-party applications, services and content which extend functionality and generate demand for tablets and smartphones running on these operating systems. Microsoft struggled to woo third-party developers interested in extending apps, services and content which impacted the company’s ambition on mobile devices. Windows 10 (the OS) will run on all connected devices; from desktops, laptops to smartphones. It is not clear if wearable electronics is a current part of Microsoft plans. Critically, the OS will adjust the user interface according to the type of devices. Microsoft also promises that consumers can purchase an app on its online store and the app will run on all of the consumer’s devices.
Forecast data show Windows gaining market share in 2014 and 2015 for both smartphones and tablets. However, the increase in share is not primarily due to Windows 8.1 (upgrades) and Windows 10 (new OS). The push by Microsoft in targeting the low end market (smartphone upgraders) and offering royalty-free OS on tablets and smartphones and bundling Microsoft Office for free in tablets are the critical success factors, rather than any euphoria surrounding the new OS. Apple’s iPad is expected to be hit hard by the bundling of free Microsoft Office productivity suites.
With most services and content residing online, consumers are no longer constrained by the type of operating systems (unlike the old days of Mac vs PC) that the devices run on. Android and iOS command a lion’s shares in both smartphones (77% for Android and 14% for iOS) and tablets (93% combined) in 2014, and probably in wearable electronics, moving forward. As such, the advantage of Windows 10’s interoperability is greatly minimised. In fact, Microsoft has to ensure that consumers using connected devices running on Windows 10 can still access their content. Essentially, Microsoft is back to square one and is unlikely to make significant progress in mobile devices, and could remain stuck in a declining category – laptops.