Microsoft executives on Wednesday highlighted a bevy of new features and applications that will be available in Windows 10, a release that will provide universal apps and bridge everything from mobile devices to PCs to Xbox. In other words, Windows 10 could be a game changer.
Or maybe not.
One thing is clear. Windows 10 is going to be interesting to watch because it'll define what Windows is about from cloud services to devices to the company's economic model.
"This is one of the most collaborative releases for Windows. We want to make Windows 10 the most loved release of Windows," said CEO Satya Nadella. "Each day we're reminded of the enormity of the responsibility we have to move the innovation of Windows forward...We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows."
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Joe Belfiore, chief of the operating systems group at Microsoft, walked through a bevy of features in Windows 10. The Cortana assistant will land in Windows 10. There will be free upgrades for Windows 7 users up (at least for a year). And an Office that's touch based is coming (for real this time). Toss in a new browser and there's a lot to chew on when it comes to Windows 10.
However, I'm left with more questions than answers. Here's a look at the looming questions for Windows 10 as the platform is rolled out to developers and the testing community.
Will Windows 10 reposition Microsoft as an innovator? The company outlined its holographic work and said it would have demonstrations in Redmond for those attending the Windows 10 event. Microsoft said holographic capabilities will be enabled inside Windows 10 devices with APIs. "Want to create a holographic app? Easy. developers: Windows 10 is yours. All universal apps can be made to work with Windows Holographic, said Alex Kipman, technical fellow and engineer credited with creating Kinect. For good measure there's a Microsoft HoloLens headset. See: Microsoft goes hologram happy with Windows 10, HoloLens, HoloStudio
Will developers flock to holograms? The message from Microsoft is that developing holographic apps won't be any different than your universal Windows 10 fare. Clearly, Microsoft's HoloStudio effort will land developers. It remains to be seen what skills are required to make Microsoft more like Holosoft.
How does the economic model change? Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first year. That's great news for the Windows base, but not unexpected. Windows needs to keep its base and other operating systems---Chrome and Mac OS---are free. Windows also needs to develop a mobile base of users. Free happens to be the right price to buy market share.
What happens from here is that Microsoft becomes a subscription based company. Will consumers buy a Windows 10 subscription? Perhaps. But Microsoft will need to throw in Office, storage and other goodies. On the enterprise front, companies will pay for support. It'll be interesting to see Microsoft's churn in the future.
Does the universal app vision hold up? Of course, Microsoft's one code line strategy and plan to bridge multiple screens makes sense. The big question is how will Microsoft execute. "It's the same code running on both devices, but formatted to fit the screen," said Belfiore. Nice strategy, but the devil is in the details.
Is Cortana much of a differentiator? Much of Belfiore's talk revolved around showing off Cortana, Microsoft's personal assistant. The idea is that Cortana is more PC friendly and helpful. "We didn't want to take only the phone experience and put it no the PC. We wanted to educate Cortana about PC kind of things so that she would be uniquely helpful," said Belfiore.
But in a desktop environment Cortana may be a pain in the butt. We'll find out, but it's unclear whether Cortana will get consumers or prosumers wound up about Windows 10. Remember there are a lot of Windows 7 customers who have little reason to upgrade.
Can Microsoft's Project Spartan browser change the game? Microsoft's new browser looks interesting and provides a nice do-over to what Internet Explorer provides. Watch how the share statistics shape up over time. The browser is notable, but lacks the pizzazz to break any inertia that goes with Google Chrome, Internet Explorer or even Firefox.
Will the bridge between Xbox and Windows 10 be solid? Bridging the worlds of Xbox and Windows 10 makes a lot of sense. It also looks potentially complicated. Microsoft's ambition makes sense. Again, the execution is key. I find the Xbox already too complicated on many fronts.
Can Microsoft's hardware strategy revolve around Windows 10? One of the more interesting moves was what Microsoft called the Surface Hub, a large screen that would bring work groups and data together. The Microsoft Surface Hub is an 84-inch 4K display with built-in cameras, speakers, microphones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. The display is integrated with OneNote, video conferencing and collaboration tools. The Surface Hub could be a Cisco and Polycom video conferencing killer.