Microsoft changed computing with MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) in 1981. Now, it is looking to reinvent itself with the launch of Windows 10 in 190 countries. The huge change for MS is that it is launching Windows 10 in a world market that has, over the past few years, moved from desktops and laptops to smartphones. That has meant, Microsoft, from being a leader, is a follower in many ways this time round. To take on the competition, Windows 10 will be available universally. It will run on everything—desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets—all will be hooked into the Windows 10 Store that will provide a single platform for a wide range of apps, games, software and services. That’s a space that has already been captured by Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store years ago. Windows 10 has introduced Cortana, a personal digital assistant, quite on the lines of Google Now and Apple’s Siri. As if that is not enough, this time round, instead of charging existing Windows users for upgrades, it is following the free-to-download model prevalent globally. That’s a sea change for Microsoft which enjoyed a near monopoly in the PC era, and is a clear indicator that the company realises that it is in a tight spot.
Satya Nadella, the India-born CEO of Microsoft, wants a billion devices globally to run Windows 10 over the next three years. All along, MS has focused on the PC and laptop market. It is only over the past few years that it has been looking to get a foot into the mobile space—the acquisition of Finland’s Nokia was just one such step. That’s not surprising. In 2014, personal computers accounted for just 12.7% of all devices sold globally, according to Gartner. That number is expected to fall further to 12.2% in 2015. Mobile phones (including smartphones) and tablets accounted for the balance. But the problem for MS is that Windows phones account for a mere 5% of the global smartphone market that is dominated by Google’s Android. After all some of the biggest mobile handset vendors such as Samsung and Mircomax are on the Android platform. It is in a complex world that Windows 10 is arriving. If it manages to break into the smartphone space, it would herald a re-entry for Microsoft.