Is it time for Microsoft to rethink Windows 10?
It’s easy to understand why Microsoft took the decision to take Windows 8 in a new direction. PC sales were falling, and people were transitioning to iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Microsoft felt it needed to do something radical to remain relevant in this changing world, and an operating system that could run on PCs, tablets, and smartphones seemed like a smart move.
The problem, of course, is the Start menu-less Windows 8 was too radical an approach for PC owners -- the bulk of Windows users -- and the OS itself was simply too half baked. There were too few decent non-PC devices around, and Microsoft had to build a Windows Store from scratch -- not easy.
Fast forward to 2015, and Microsoft brings out Windows 10. On paper, this had everything going for it. It was replacing a disliked predecessor, it offered what seemed like the best features of Windows 8.x combined with the best features of Windows 7, and it was free. What was not to like? Plus, like Windows 8.x, it could run on PCs, tablets and phones.
But Windows 10 hasn’t been the sure fire hit it was expected to be. It will be on 1 billion devices by 2018, Microsoft crowed. But even forcing users to upgrade to it didn’t get the OS any nearer to hitting that magical number. Windows 10 has a market share of around 25 percent now, which isn’t bad, except that’s half of what Windows 7 has, and people have stopped upgrading.
There’s no question Windows 10 is a great, modern operating system. Two big updates, and the third incarnation -- the Creators Update -- is just around the corner, which will improve it further still, and address some of the complaints users have about it, but will that get people upgrading again? Time will tell.
But the problem with Windows 10, for me at least, is it’s built around apps. At the start of the decade Microsoft no doubt looked at Apple and Google, hosting and selling apps to iOS and Android users, and fancied a slice of the pie, but the Windows Store is lacking in quality, and why would someone install an app when they could install a program? Microsoft might insist on calling programs "legacy apps" because it makes them sound outdated, but the truth is there are more programs than apps available for Windows 10, and that’s where the quality is to be found.
And here’s the biggest problem with apps -- they’re now universal, and designed to run on any device running Windows -- PCs, tablets, smartphones -- but who has a Windows smartphone these days? Pretty much no one. The whole point of Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps is you can install them on any Windows device you own, but if you only own a PC they why would you want to install an app when you could install a more powerful program, and enjoy greater choice?
It’s been ages since Microsoft released a decent Windows smartphone. Sure, maybe the company is planning a raft of them after the Creators Update rolls out, but why would anyone buy one? Microsoft’s best home grown apps are available on iOS and Android, and Apple and Google’s ecosystems are so rich that I struggle to understand why anyone would opt for a Windows phone in 2017.
The main issue people are -- rightly -- hating on in Windows 10 at the moment is the adverts that Microsoft has peppered the OS with. These, for the most part, are to push apps, but I doubt the Windows Store has enjoyed a huge uptick in downloads as a result of them -- it’s just another annoyance Windows 10 users have to put up with.
So back to the question I posed in my headline. Is it time for Microsoft to rethink Windows 10? I think it is. Microsoft has gambled on creating an operating system designed to run on different devices, but really it needs to accept that without at least one successful Windows smartphone that approach serves no purpose. Apple and Google play to their strengths, but with its focus on apps, Microsoft sadly continues to play to its weakness.