Today, Microsoft reveals Windows 10. Windows 10, initially code-named Threshold, is a threshold that must be crossed. Here's what got us here.
You can catch up on all the amazing announcements and let us know what you think about the Windows 10 reveal.
Over the last 9 years, since the iPhone was introduced, we've seen a burst of innovation that empowered us, as consumers, to use devices in previously unimagined ways. We created personal relationships with our devices and our apps. Our expectations of and dependencies on technology changed. And we brought our new expectations, devices, and apps to work, expecting the same kind of responsive, user-friendly, beautiful, "there's an app for that" solutions at work.
We didn't find them there. So consumers pushed IT, and IT began to cave to demands of its customers--the trend labeled "the consumerization of IT". Microsoft was slow to respond and to innovate. As was its modus operandi, it was late to the table. Not terribly surprising, as Microsoft has to support backward compatibility for an almost infinite ecosystem of legacy solutions and applications built by developers who ran the gamut from skilled and careful to hacky end-users. Perhaps more problematic is the understandable reluctance of enterprise users to adopt new technologies and experiences at work, while seemingly accepting of huge technological change at home and in their pocket.
The culture of Windows that had developed up through the tenure of Sinofsky didn't help either. And the mix of leadership, business culture, market dynamics, code base, regulatory hurdles, and a rapidly changing landscape of devices proved toxic. The release of Windows 8 was, by most accounts, a train wreck. While recent, significant and free updates have smoothed the experience of Windows 8 tremendously, adoption (particularly in the enterprise) was lethargic at best because Windows 8 was perceived as a mess, and because Windows 7 was just so darned good (lets call it "Windows XP Syndrome").
But the news was not all bad, in my opinion. Windows 8 allowed Microsoft to bring some of its user experience (UX) concepts to hundreds of millions of customers. I'm actually a big fan of a lot of what makes "the UX formerly known as Metro". Horizontal scrolling through a panoramic interface and live tiles, in particular, are quite genius. I still think that the UXs of Zune and of Windows Media Center are beautiful. Windows Media Center hasn't changed much in 10 years, and even last night my friends who were with me to watch TV made specific comments about how much they loved the UX of my "DVR" (I use a laptop with WMC to power my television). Windows Phone 8.1 is by far my favorite phone OS, though adoption just couldn't drive app developers to flesh out the app store fast enough and so I "downgraded" to iOS so that I could have a richer app selection. Microsoft's UX's have enormous potential.
Windows 8 and Microsoft's releases of the rapidly evolving and improving line of Surface devices also pushed hardware partners to innovate. While Apple hardware is glorious and fantastic, you can't ignore the fact that there is just ridiculous innovation and choice over in the Windows powered section of Best Buy! Has anyone seen Sprout, for example? Holy cow!
Microsoft knew that the next releases of Windows would be targeted at bringing together its diverse operating systems--Windows (legacy desktop), Windows ("Metro"), Windows Phone, Xbox, and Windows Embedded--across devices, so that apps could be built "once" and applied across device sizes, from wearable to wall-sized.
Which brings us to today. We are at the Threshold--code name for "Windows v Next" initially. It seems clear that Microsoft has accelerated the effort, and will release an operating system that does cross the threshold and deliver a single ecosystem to developers, and a single set of experiences to users, across devices. It also seems clear there will be significant surprises today.
The stakes could not be higher. Microsoft is now the number three operating system across devices and while the moves across the business to support iOS and Andriod are welcome, successful, and overdue, Microsoft needs to maintain a channel through which it can guarantee premium experience with its services. Windows will either cross the threshold or die trying, starting today.