Before I delve into the actual point that I’m going to hopefully get across in the article, I’m just going to put my cards, face up so you can all see them, right out on the table. The title of this article makes the massive assumption that Microsoft hasn’t already had this same thought. Either that, or it is just too damn belligerent to take note of what the rest of the world is thinking. It’s there to make you read the article, and seeing as you’re reading this right now, I guess it might have worked.
Now, let’s get down to business. And business is exactly the first point of this little agenda. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess how many business customers Microsoft currently provides for. I could probably find out, but I fear that my brain might malfunction and cause a minor aneurysm should I try to process so many digits. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot. It’s the focal point of the business, and that’s a point that I’ve attempted to reiterate time and time again in posts for Zath, particularly in recent review of Windows Phone 7, the Redmond-based software giant’s latest and thankfully greatest mobile OS.
This article isn’t about Windows Phone 7, though, not directly anyhow. It’s about Windows. You know, that trusty old desktop operating system that you’re most likely using right now? Windows 7 is the latest version, and whilst that too is arguably the greatest iteration of the OS to date, its still beta software. Ok, so officially it isn’t beta, but the ‘trouble’ with Windows is that unlike OS X, each ‘new’ version is for the most part the same as the last, with a few fancy new frills, streamlining here and there and a slightly improved UI.
For years now, Microsoft has got by quite handsomely with the same technology behind the scenes in its desktop OS, whilst Apple has attempted somewhat strenuously to wrestle some of that market share against its old-enemy. You may remember that Snow Leopard was built from the ground up with 64-bit architecture, which although fantastic for new adopters, crippled those with old hardware and rendered their Mac’s almost redundant.
Microsoft is on a tighter leash, though, so to speak as it is tied down by the aforementioned legacy business customers that have been hoarded in millions and rake in billions for them year on year. Is this a problem? For Microsoft’s bank balance, probably not, no, and taking such a daring and revolutionary step may even harm that. But in the interest of making the best product possible, the answer is more likely to be yes.
So many companies, both large and small, rely on Windows’ enormous level of compatibility to run all sorts of bespoke systems that you or I have probably never heard of, and likely never will. If Microsoft were to suddenly scrap the system that it has been working and building on so religiously for over a decade, it could potentially cut off millions of users and thousands/millions of companies from full, proper and effective operation thanks to an enormous over-dependence on IT systems. This really is a bad thing. For everyone.
However, it’s not Microsoft that has to make a huge decision on the next direction to take. The entire computing industry is making an enormous shift towards mobile devices, and this has provided Microsoft with an opportunity, that on current evidence, it is not exploiting – at all. It’s worrying to think that such a revolutionary alteration to the hardware side of things doesn’t warrant an equally colossal change on the software side. With Apple it has, the way we interact with iOS is entirely different to the way we do OS X, and that system has clearly worked for Apple, but Microsoft is still trying to push Windows with tablets, and is apparently working hard to ensure that Windows 8 is more tablet-friendly. A strange step from Microsoft, bearing in mind that Apple, Google, HP/Palm and RIM – all of the other players in the industry – are all using specifically designed mobile OS’ for their tablets. What can Microsoft see that the others can’t? Vast compatibility?
The way I see it, many developers wouldn’t begrudge having to re-develop their software and systems for tablet devices. In fact, it will be hugely beneficial to them to do so, providing they have the financial clout and man power to do such a thing. The way we interact with the hardware has a huge bearing on the effectiveness on the software, and simply sticking a skin on it won’t make the change any more bearable, only more bloated. Plus, with Microsoft’s incredible range of ‘cloud’ services as part of Windows Live, there is an awful lot of scope for synchronisation there, for both business and personal users.
What this monumental change in the industry has given Microsoft, is the chance to start afresh. New technologies, state of the art software architecture, which it undoubtedly has at its disposal, to deploy into an all-new OS for mobile devices. We have Windows Phone 7, and will that make it onto tablets? Maybe, maybe not, but at the moment we can only assume that it will be Windows 8 holding the mantle of Microsoft’s flagship tablet OS for years to come, and like I said: that’s a little worrying.
Then, a few years down the line, once the majority of the world has adopted the mobile platform, providing the desktop computer actually still exists, Microsoft can transfer what it has taken from the mobile industry, and transfer the still relatively new OS onto the old desktop platform, completing the modernisation of its ecosystem.
At the moment, we have potentially Windows 7/8, built on 20-year old software at its very core, and the brand spanking new Windows Phone 7 on smartphones. Microsoft tablets, despite most likely sporting the new Metro UI, will be like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in ‘Lost in Translation’. An ultimately impossible combination of old and young which would make me fear Windows 8 tablets. So come on Microsoft, do us a favour and push something new. Everyone else is doing it, you know, it’s quite the rage down in Silicon Valley.