WINDOWS 10: See Mum, there is such a thing as a free launch

As Microsoft reps don their tuxes and prepare their pep-rally, we reflect on what might go wrong

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WINDOWS 10: See Mum, there is such a thing as a free launch Stephen McBride, editor,
By  Stephen McBride Published  July 29, 2015

Today Windows users finally get their hands on Microsoft's Windows 10 OS, in a launch that will mean a great deal not only to the Redmond-based software behemoth, but to the wider ICT sector.

Microsoft has strained against a reinvented industry, shaped by the mobile computing insurgency, which has played host to concepts like free OS software and OS upgrades, both of which were at odds with pre-Satya Nadella strategies. For example, Microsoft's total software licensing revenue, which included Windows and consumer Office, was $4.38bn in its third fiscal quarter as reported in April 2014, even as PC sales continued to flag. For Microsoft, Windows was wonga.

Windows 8 did not charm users. The initial lack of a Start button, and a home-screen interface that appeared to favour touchscreen devices to the detriment of core productivity users, caused an outcry. Such was the furore that Microsoft rushed out Windows 8.1, which had a range of additions, one of which just happened to be (cough) the Start button.

It bore a remarkable resemblance to a climb-down. Microsoft, for months since the Win8 launch had played ostrich to its user base, insisting the sans-Start-button interface had passed muster with a sizeable legion of focus-group testers and was, therefore, just dandy, thank-you very much. It is a chapter Microsoft doubtless wants to distance itself from. For those interested in symbolism, the decision to name the next iteration "10" rather than "9" should inspire a smile, if not a guffaw.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has made it clear the Start button remains, but Redmond's vision for the next-gen platform goes much further. In fact, if Windows 10 has an over-arching message it is that its developer finally understands the meaning of phrases like "third platform", "next generation" and "mobile computing". If the OS delivers what it says on the tin, Microsoft could be setting the ICT agenda again, instead of just running to keep up with Apple and Google.

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