Windows currently has over 90% of the desktop OS market share. Yet, despite this staggering statistic, it has often seems that Microsoft is playing catch-up with respect to the needs and preferences of the modern, casual consumers. Perhaps the key to explaining this struggle on the “modern” frontier as perceived by casual users, lies in the strong enterprise contribution to the desktop OS statistics. Windows, although owning the overwhelming consumer OS share, dominates the business sector. As such, their focus on providing dependable and consistent OS for the enterprise customers can be seen as neglecting to add a plethora of exciting features for the masses. Microsoft has clearly been working hard to address this for some time, and we see no deviation in current strategy. User experience is a top priority, with emphasis on a modern aesthetic and interface convenience.
The idea of the desktop computer has changed. An increasing amount of work is done on or across mobile devices. Taking mobile devices into consideration, and the poor representation of Windows in the mobile market, it is obvious that Microsoft has an uphill struggle to keep windows relevant in the updated sense of personal computing, which far exceeds the desktop. It is no surprise, then, that the main focus for Windows 10 appears to be the seamless integration of devices across mobile and desktop platforms. Windows 10 plans for a universal operating system, with the new Continuum feature allowing for continuity of workflow between devices of different classes. Windows Search has also been extended to incorporate the Cortana intelligent personal assistant, first unveiled with Windows Phone, for voice input Windows Search. The Windows Search tool is now located right next to the start button and aims to provide a universal intelligent search tool, making heavy use of web integration.
Modern license strategy for the modern user
Somewhere Microsoft has previously remained strongly rooted to tradition is licensing. Complicated and prohibitive licensing policy has been the bane of VDI vendors and services providing cross-device functionality. The last year has marked a major shift for Microsoft.
The tradition of license per user per device holds well in a monopoly market, but as the range of devices diversifies and reliance on windows compatible apps wanes, prohibitive licensing has strongly served to make competitors, for example, some Linux alternatives, more attractive. Now when users commonly span multiple devices including desktop/laptop, phone and tablet, to keep up with integration across devices, an integrated license policy is required. Microsoft realise that if they want to stay dominant in the enterprise market, they need to allow affordable cross-platform options for app streaming, to ensure an ongoing reliance on Windows apps. Markedly slow to the virtualisation and cloud game, Microsoft has decided make an entrance with its new Azure RemoteApp.
The Azure RemoteApp is a cloud-hosted application streaming service, which stops just short of a VDI. The service, which aims at providing mobile and uniform access to windows applications across devices was released late last year, and is touted as a strong competitor to the emerging and established 3rd party DaaS offerings. Azure RemoteApp offers a pay-as-you-go subscription service, which can be fully cloud hosted or hybrid. Using the RemoteApp, users can stream Windows apps to a remote client on almost any OS or device.
The –as-a-Service emphasis is also reflected in the Windows 10 update strategy, where a Windows 10 OS will be updated for the lifetime of the device. Hopefully, this will allow for more seamless development and deployment of apps across devices and releases, making windows favourable for development and, crucially, enterprise use.
Windows Search has been moving closer to an intelligent and integrative search solution. The incorporation of Cortana personal assistant into Windows Search with Windows 10 is a good example of extending the Windows Search user interface. The mobile first and cloud first focus of Microsoft could provide a good platform for Windows Search to become a more powerful search tool. The cloud-centric and virtualised approach of the Azure RemoteApp does remind of some previous Windows Search shortcomings with respect to adequately searching virtual desktops. The closer integration of devices adds a great potential for delivering information to your fingertips. It will be interesting to see if Windows Search can provide the toolset to exploit this full potential.