Windows 10 goes live in 190 countries for free: Will Microsoft’s big bet pay off?

29 Jul 201562 Shares

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Will Microsoft's big bet on getting Windows 10 on 1.5bn devices pay off? Stalwart Windows 7 users will have something to do with it.

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Microsoft is betting on 1.5bn people around the world making the switch to Windows 10 across a range of devices from smartphones to tablets, PCs and games consoles. The new operating system goes live in 190 countries worldwide today as a free upgrade.

Initial reviews appear to be favourable — especially in terms of how the new OS favours diehard fans of Windows 7.

Gone is the Metro-style layout, which appeared to have been Microsoft’s clumsy grasp of the tablet world, only to be replaced by a more intelligent Start button. You get the sense that this is probably what Microsoft should have done with Windows 8, a more subtle progression rather than diving deep into the tablet world.

More than 2,000 devices ranging from PCs to tablets, phones, Raspberry Pi and HoloLens devices are in testing for the new OS and Microsoft is making a big push to get app developers on side with the new Windows Store and Windows Software Development Kit.

“A new era of Windows starts today. From the beginning, Windows 10 has been unique — built with feedback from over five million fans, delivered as a service and offered as a free upgrade,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Windows and devices group, at Microsoft.

“Windows 10 delivers on our more personal computing vision, with a natural, mobile and trusted experience. Along with our partners, we’re excited to deliver the best Windows ever, which will empower people and organisations around the world to do great things.”

Windows 10 aims for that familiar feeling

Microsoft is betting big on familiarity and, again, attracting stalwart Windows 7 users who prefer stability and reliability.

There is a bit of a rhythm to this. Windows XP, which debuted in 2001, was arguably Microsoft’s most popular operating system.

All kudos and faith went out the window with the half-baked monstrosity that was Windows Vista. It was not so much a clear Vista as a rain-fogged window pane as Microsoft tried to push an operating system on devices that weren’t equipped to handle it.

The ignominy of Vista was forgotten when, in 2009, Microsoft released Windows 7 and all was forgiven. Windows 7 was stable, reliable and actually quite elegant.

Windows 8 came along with Microsoft’s first foray into hardware devices in the form of the Surface tablet PC hybrids, which I believe don’t get enough kudos and whose Pro versions are just as superior to competing Apple MacBook Air devices.

Windows 8 had the expected under-the-hood improvements but on the surface people found the Metro interface and the disappearance of the Start button confusing. It was a deliberate effort by Microsoft to immerse itself in the tablet computing world, but was almost too vigorous an effort.

This was amended somewhat with Windows 8.1 with the return of the Start button and lots of additional functions, but still the culture shock of the tablet screen is failing to attract Windows 7 users, who just love Windows for being Windows.

The success of Windows 7 is clear in the fact that right to today it is on almost 50pc of computers worldwide, while Windows 8.1 is on about 14pc. And that is precisely where Microsoft is aiming its efforts at — attracting Windows 7 users into the Windows 10 fold.

And that is a substantial target.

What to expect with Windows 10

statcounter-os-market-share-worldwide

Statcounter worldwide operating system market share to July 2015

A hands-on preview of Windows 10 recently proved that if Microsoft is hoping to usher Windows 7 users into the 10 era, it will be a subtle enough shift because it almost looks identical to Windows 7 — up to a point. Well, a number of points.

First of all, the Metro screen is gone, only to be replaced by a Start button that does everything the Start button on Windows 7 does — access to files, apps, etc… — but it can also be dynamically doctored by the user to bring up favourite apps, social media, searches, etc… in a responsive way. The Start window expands as you add favourite apps that you want to be a click away.

Windows 10 is less a nod towards tablet than 8 was, in particular, but more a nod towards mobile in general. Not only does it have Continuum, which optimises apps to work simultaneously across touch and desktop modes, but Microsoft has released a Phone Companion app that enables iPhones, Android and Windows Phone devices to work with Windows 10 devices.

Office Mobile apps are also available from today in the Windows Store that will work easily on large-screen PCs and 2-in-1 devices like the Surface Pro.

Microsoft has also doubled down on the native apps that come with Windows 10, such as Maps, Photos, Movies and TV, as well as Microsoft’s new music app, Groove. My favourite so far is Maps in terms of the ability to get photo-realistic 3D renderings of entire cityscapes across the world.

The new OS also comes with a new browser called Microsoft Edge, which at first glance is miles ahead of the travesty that is Explorer and provides whip-fast delivery of web pages as well as the ability to annotate on top of web pages and share with friends and colleagues.

Also, the new OS is designed to integrate seamlessly with the Xbox and players can stream games they are playing on the Xbox and continue playing on nearby devices within Wi-Fi coverage.

All in all, Windows 10 could be the bet that will pay off for Microsoft. Join up Windows 7 users, all is hopefully forgiven.

Windows 10 image via Shutterstock

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com