The July 29 launch of Windows 10 is as much about Microsoft reinventing itself as it is about the latest version of the world’s most popular PC operating system (OS). Ever since Windows 8 failed to enthuse the market, Microsoft has been thinking hard on how to stem the loss of market share to competitors. And Windows 10 has presented the company with an opportunity.
The most significant departure from the past is that, apart from paid versions for PC users running other OS, Windows 7 and Windows 8 users have been offered the newest version as a free update. Microsoft will stop selling software packages every couple of years, and instead offer frequent updates, on a subscription basis. With this, Microsoft acknowledges the rules of the software market have changed. The rise of Apple and Google has been marked by these companies passing on software to users for free—the former’s hardware sales subsidised this while the latter had its huge advertising business to fall back on—which is why, though Windows still remains the largest-selling PC OS, Google’s Chrome OS and Apple’s Mac have been snapping at its heels. Microsoft had begun to test the waters by offering mobile versions of MS Office apps for free as well as offering Windows OS for mobiles free to low-cost mobile/tablet makers; that was prompted by a recognition of the fact that PCs will be at the tail-end of personal computing as smaller devices replace them. Then, there are the new and ‘just catching up’ features—Cortana, the Siri-like digital assistant, a refreshing addition if media reports are to be believed, and Edge, the new Microsoft browser, which replaces the Internet Explorer, with the promise to be the fastest browser on Windows. To keep up with the times, Microsoft seems keen on shedding the baggage of the past.