Windows 10 finally has become an adult product with a child’s heart

Windows 10 is maturing to finally place the needs of the user in the forefront again.

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I became an industry analyst during the ramp to launch for Windows 95 and, as luck would have it, I owned operating systems for Dataquest at the time. The success of the product was directly tied to my own success and I doubt I’d be where I am today were it not for that timing and responsibility. As a result, I’ve watched Windows closely over the years, almost as if it was my digital brother and both of us have had some impressive ups and downs. (Disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author.) 

Initially Windows was designed to be Microsoft’s alternative to the MacOS from Apple and it resulted after Steve Jobs refused to license that OS to Microsoft. In that way, its birth wasn’t that different than Android’s was, given Android resulted from what appeared to be a similar, though not identical, disagreement decades later between the Google founders and Steve Jobs. 

From that start Windows has been best what it was closest to the needs of user’s worst when it was driven by the isolated desires of Microsoft executives. With Windows 10, Microsoft has pivoted back to more of a user focus largely using their Windows Insider program. 

For my first post in this new blog, let’s talk a bit about how we got here:

Windows' twisted childhood

After the launch of Windows 95, the product entered a tug of war between those that believed it should be user-focused, the ones running the 9x version of the product, and those that believed it should be OS/2 reborn and were running the NT side. Concepts like making the product fun, embracing gaming and fast load times gave way to a common code base between desktops, servers and workstations, a tighter focus on IT needs, and Y2K became the effective club which drove Microsoft’s efforts away from users and the love for the product diminished even as it became more of a world standard. 

UNIX, which had largely been wiped out, was equally largely replaced by Linux as more professional users rebelled and Microsoft’s near-total dominance began to erode. The lovely user-focused child that was represented by Windows 95 became an increasingly intractable teenager which explored the boundaries of tolerance with products like Windows Vista and Windows 8 but still showed signs of promise with offerings like Windows XP and Windows 7. These offerings were the result of Windows’s parents returning to the concept of good product creation and at least partially focusing back on users. 

Windows 8 was a big wake-up call because it was the equivalent of finding your kid in a cult completely disconnected from reality and hooked on dangerous drugs. The drug was the need to turn a PC into a smartphone and, for a while, every major PC vendor was hooked on it and, just like a dangerous drug, the entire industry was put at major risk.

Windows 10: Moving to young adulthood

Windows 10, which has largely been defined of late by far more user-focused executive team, has returned to become a far more user focused offering. This is showcased by the recent disclosure of a set of clearly user-focused features, a far stronger focus on security (Application Guard), and the Windows Insider Program which appears to supply much of the inspiration for the product’s development going forward. One of the most interesting advances is the Fluent Design System which attempts to anticipate the coming wave of Mixed Reality systems, another is the advancement of Cortana into a speech interface, and the coming application linking between Android and iOS products allowing you to more seamlessly move between smartphones and PCs. 

So, with Windows 10 and a renewed focus on users’ Windows moves into young adulthood, you can see something of the adult product it eventually will become evolving into the hands free, virtual platform we’ll need tomorrow. For today it is showing the maturity and user empathy we saw a glimpse of in Windows 95, XP and 7 but which has become a full part of its personality in Windows 10. 

Wrapping up

Windows and I have had an interesting life so far, full of excitement often caused by missteps, and all the problems and promise of adolescence. The product is likely now showing more maturity than I often do (I never felt growing up was a requirement) and the result is that it is become a far more appreciated and far more effective tool than it was last decade. Growing up is hard for people and products, given I’m somewhat linked to this one, it is nice to see that Windows appears to, finally, be turning out to be just fine. 

However, like me, there is still a child’s heart in the product which has not only embraced business but has returned with attractive exciting new hardware like the AMD Threadripper offerings and a renewed focus on gaming. Maybe it’s good that neither of us truly grow up.

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