Editorial: Microsoft is doing a great job defending Windows

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After listening to another miserable Windows Weekly I have finally done what I have been feeling like doing for a long time – Say out loud that Microsoft is doing a great job defending Windows.

While it is somewhat fashionable to count out the 1.5 billion PC users, Microsoft is clearly not ready to give up the foundation of their user base, and are actively working to correct the issues which can make using Windows unattractive.

Sometimes this is to the detriment of their other businesses, such as Windows phones and Xbox, but clearly the Windows team are not quite ready yet to roll over and die and hand all over to Google’s Chromebook “empire.”

So what has Microsoft done to defend Windows?

The first is their ongoing effort to simplify the OS and make it more like a modern smartphone or tablet. Apps are now easy to find in the store, they install, update and uninstall cleanly, and the store is largely free of malware. The effort has not been popular amongst those who prefer the power of unchecked applications, but it is a necessary move to address one of the main pain points of Windows.  Mobile features such as the Notification Centre means mobile-first developers (such as WhatsApp) are now also able to offer the same experience on the desktop in terms of notifications as they do on the phone, which offers them another incentive to develop for the platform and keep users constantly engaged in their service.

Second has been the massive effort to move one billion Windows users only Windows 10. While Windows is a large church, its fragmentation has made it difficult for developers to address and exploit and for Microsoft to keep updated. A unified platform amplifies the network effect and should make the platform a lot more attractive.

Integration with successful mobile operating systems is the next leg of Microsoft’s effort. Via Cortana Microsoft now support Android notifications via the Action centre, meaning mobile users are being introduced to valuable Windows features.

Microsoft is also stepping up its effort to bring technology from Microsoft Research to Windows, in an effort to add some innovation to the OS. Examples include Windows Hello, touch and pen input, Hololens and Cortana. If we compare this to the actual new technologies delivered by Windows 7 or 8 it is clear there is a sea change going on terms of what is actually being delivered to users.

Microsoft is already releasing world-class hardware to support the OS in the form of their Surface line. The line has single-handedly recast Windows as suitable for much more than bargain-bin hardware.

Another important move is unifying the Windows and Xbox ecosystem. This long overdue move would see Windows apps on your TV and much more importantly AAA Xbox games on PCs being sold to a much wider audience than before. Microsoft has also moved rapidly to address concerns gamers have about UWP restrictions and have already addressed some of them e.g. the vsync issue.

Which brings us to our last and most important point – Microsoft has been making a concerted effort to listen and make their customers as happy as possible, leading to somewhat ridiculous things such as rating the calculator. Their heart however is clearly in the right place.

The end result of these efforts should be a large and competitive ecosystem of secure devices all running the same OS, with easy to use apps and innovative technologies.

Of course this does not address Microsoft’s biggest issue – Windows is the OS you use at your desk for 8 hours, and but not the one you keep in your pocket for the next 8, or leave by your bedside for the last. This by itself may be enough to doom the OS to a slow decline, but I am sure Microsoft is as aware as everyone else of this issue, and would be looking to address this in some way.

It is clear however that when it comes to desktop Windows Microsoft is far from raising the white flag, even if some Windows Weekly hosts have already given up.

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