'Windows 10 on everything' is Microsoft's gambit to profit from its competitors

May 7, 2015 by Mark Skilton, The Conversation
Windows on anything means revenue from everything, at least that’s the idea. gadgets by aslysun/shutterstock.com

Microsoft's aim to make Windows 10 run on anything is key to its strategy of reasserting its dominance. Seemingly unassailable in the 1990s, Microsoft's position has in many markets been eaten away by the explosive growth of phones and tablets, devices in which the firm has made little impact.

To run Windows 10 on everything, Microsoft is opening up.

Rather than requiring Office users to run Windows, now Office365 is available for Android and Apple iOS mobile devices. A version of Visual Studio, Microsoft's key application for programmers writing Windows software, now runs on Mac OS or Linux operating systems.

Likewise, with tools released by Microsoft developers can tweak their Android and iOS apps so that they run on Windows. The aim is to allow developers to create, with ease, the of a universal app that runs on anything. For a firm that has been unflinching in taking every opportunity to lock users into its platform, just as with Apple and many other tech firms, this is a major change of tack.

From direct to indirect revenue

So why is Microsoft trying to become a general purpose, broadly compatible platform? Windows' share of the operating system market has fallen steadily from 90% to 70% to 40%, depending on which survey you believe. This reflects customers moving to mobile, where the Windows Phone holds a mere 3% market share. In comparison Microsoft's cloud infrastructure platform Azure, Office 365 and its Xbox games console have all experienced rising fortunes.

Lumbered with a heritage of Windows PCs in a falling market, Microsoft's strategy is to move its services – and so its users – inexorably toward the cloud. This divides into two necessary steps.

We’re way into the post-PC era. Credit: Blake Patterson, CC BY

First, for software developed for Microsoft products to run on all of them – write once, run on everything. As it is there are several different Microsoft platforms (Win32, WinRT, WinCE, Windows Phone) with various incompatibilities. This makes sense, for a uniform user experience and also to maximise revenue potential from reaching as many possible devices.

Second, to implement a universal approach so that code runs on other operating systems other than Windows. This has historically been fraught, with differences in approach to communicating, with hardware and processor architecture making it difficult. In recent years, however, improving virtualisation has made it much easier to run code across platforms.

It will be interesting to see whether competitors such as Google and Apple will follow suit, or further enshrine their products into tightly coupled, closed ecosystems. Platform exclusivity is no longer the way to attract and hold customers; instead the appeal is the applications and services that run on them. For Microsoft, it lies in subscriptions to Office365 and Xbox Gold, in-app and in-game purchases, downloadable video, books and other revenue streams – so it makes sense for Microsoft to ensure these largely cloud-based services are accessible from operating systems other than just their own.

Platform vs services

Is there any longer any value in buying into a single service provider? Consider smartphones from Samsung, Google, Apple and Microsoft: prices may differ, but the functionality is much the same. The element of difference is the value of wearables and internet of things devices (for example, Apple Watch), the devices they connect with (for example, an iPhone), the size of their user communities, and the network effect.

From watches to fitness bands to internet fridges, the benefits lie in how devices are interconnected and work together. This is a truly radical concept that demonstrates digital technology is driving a new economic model, with value associated with "in-the-moment" services when walking about, in the car, or at work. It's this direction that Microsoft is aiming for with Windows 10, focusing on the next big thing that will drive the digital economy.

The Windows family tree … it’s complicated. Credit: Kristiyan Bogdanov, CC BY-SA
The revolution will be multi-platform

I predict that we will see tech firms try to grow ecosystems of sensors and services running on mobile devices, either tied to a specific platform or by driving traffic directly to their cloud infrastructure.

Apple has already moved into the mobile health app market and connected home market. Google is moving in alongside manufacturers such as Intel, ARM and others. An interesting illustration of this effect is the growth of digital payments – with Apple, Facebook and others seeking ways to create revenue from the traffic passing through their ecosystems.

However, the problem is that no single supplier like Google, Apple, Microsoft or internet services such as Facebook or Amazon can hope to cover all the requirements of the internet of things, which is predicted to scale to over 50 billion devices worth US$7 trillion in five years. As we become more enmeshed with our devices, wearables and sensors, demand will rise for services driven by the personal data they create. Through "Windows 10 on everything", Microsoft hopes to leverage not just the users of its own ecosystem, but those of its competitors too.

Explore further: Microsoft forecasts 1 billion Windows 10 computers, burst of new apps

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Returners
not rated yet May 07, 2015
They haven't made windows 8 run on "anything" so how do they plan to make windows 10 run on anything?
Noumenon
not rated yet May 07, 2015
Yes, with windows 8, where they tried to conform the desktop to the tablet, rather than the other way around, was a colossal mistake,... but they fixed that with 8.1. (You can easily switch between tiles and the traditional start-menu, both useful).

I think MS will make a come back with windows 10, and especially with their Hololens which looks to be a game changer. Making Office available for IOS and adroid was a major step as well,... albeit I can not run Excel VBA code off of my iPhone.
winthrom
not rated yet May 07, 2015
M$ has a new leader. Perhaps the play-book is to mimic Google's Android. Win "heavy" becomes Win "lite". M$ tried to "lock" users into a combination operating-system/Office that was based on WIN-NT that it sucked from IBM via a contract to write OS/2. see http://en.wikiped...mpatible and http://en.wikiped...ki/OS/2. WIN-10 is really Cirtix terminal and the Cloud is really a remote computer. A server cluster (f***) acting like an old IBM Mainframe. IBM may cash in on this with Linux running on real Mainframes, but businesses standardized on M$ Office. Office is the money maker, "razor blades"; WIN-10 is the cheap O/S, "razor". Google and Amazon are more about storage (but Google is writing S/W for the user). Businesses have been shifting to the Terminal/Server cluster for about 5 years now, encouraged by high bandwidth Internet and cheap hardware. The key to all this is strong encryption for the communication channels. WIN-10 will fail to recognize this need.
RichTheEngineer
1 / 5 (2) May 07, 2015
The good ship Microsoft has done hit the iceberg and is sliding into the sea. Say goodnight, M$.

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