What should Windows do

Well, the title of the post should have been “What should Microsoft do”, but right now I am not interested in talking about Microsoft Office or XBox or Bing. For our discussion, I prefer to treat “Windows” as a stand-alone organization.

In all those places I have worked, I was required to use Windows desktops. At home, we own a couple of devices running different flavors of Windows. I am not planning to decommission Windows anytime soon from my life. As a long time Windows customer – albeit a reluctant one at times – I am worried about its future.

The announcement of new Windows (Windows 10) created a reasonable amount of social media buzz and somewhat lukewarm expectations from (once) software giant. The twitter crowd started joke-streaming the popular elementary school humor of “7 ate 9″.

The release schedule is going to be late 2015 – TBD. To Be Decided is the problem that Microsoft lately has. Looking around we can see that the industry has shifted to rolling out major versions of software at least once every year. Customers became more savvy of nuances of the feature set that their favorite OS vendor brings in. Millions of people started watching Apple / Google / Samsung launch events.

Traditionally Windows adopted a refresh frequency of 2-3 years. It made sense in the past because Microsoft enjoyed a universal monopoly on PC operating systems and the smallest denomination of personal computing available to customers were desktops and laptops.  That beautiful candyland doesn’t exist anymore. Mobile has become ubiquitous. Apple and Google now dominate the lion’s share of that market while Microsoft was marginalized to be a bystander. Microsoft has tried to change its strategy – quickly dumped the well designed XP/Windows 7 products and embraced the metro-style tablo-desktop-sundae-OS called Windows 8. I can’t think of a product that was hated by more number of its fanbase than Windows 8. And it took 3 years for Microsoft to release it.

With the new leadership at its helm, Microsoft announced its next version of OS last month. The new version of Windows, which is expected to clean up after Windows 8, would come out shortly – well, in 2015, TBD to be precise!

What Windows should do is to commit for shorter cycles of OS iterations, that rejuvenate the market every once in a while. If a version fails to capture the imagination of its customer base, let it fail quickly and recover from that failure faster. Windows 8 came out in October 2012. It should not take 3 years for a software behemoth to recover from a failure as staggering as that of Windows 8. (Did you say, Windows 8.1? That doesn’t count..).

The first and foremost action Windows should do is to reduce their refresh frequency. Now more than ever, we need Windows in the market place.