Microsoft Corp. showed a first glimpse of its newest Windows operating system, touting new features such as a custom application store and added security, seeking to woo businesses that shunned the previous version as confusing and hard to use.
Called Windows 10, the software restores the Start menu and will let corporations tailor the app store for their own users, Windows chief Terry Myerson said at an event yesterday in San Francisco. The new system, designed to run on mobile and desktop devices, will also separate corporate and personal data on individual machines to bolster security, he said.
“Windows 10 embodies what our consumer and enterprise customers are demanding and what we will deliver, ” Myerson said. “It will run on the smallest Internet of things and data centers worldwide.”
In 2012, Microsoft revamped Windows for personal computers in an attempt to lure back consumers defecting to Apple Inc.’s smartphones and tablets and devices running Google Inc. software. That version, Windows 8, added a touch-screen-based design to the program’s familiar desktop layout, a change that many users found confusing. The update was poorly received by consumers and irked business customers, and Microsoft later updated the software so that some features could be disabled.
Now, the Windows group is refocusing on corporate customers, seeking to revive sales growth as Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella also steers the company to develop apps and services for rival operating systems and pushes more Internet-based cloud-computing services.
Bread and Butter
“The enterprise is Microsoft’s bread and butter - as much as you want to focus on the consumer, their wheelhouse is the enterprise, ” Daniel Ives, a New York-based analyst at FBR Capital Markets & Co., said in a phone interview. “They have their work cut out for them both internally and externally. There’s a lot of naysayers.”
In naming the new software Windows 10, Microsoft is skipping a version of the operating system called Windows 9, a bid to signify that the release is a significant jump from the previous version. The company will start rolling out previews of the new software tomorrow, and the system will be widely available in mid-2015, Myerson said.
The design attempts to blend some of the more successful aspects of Windows 8 and familiar parts of Windows 7 that appealed to corporate customers. For the newest version, the Start Menu will use the older design and a second column with the boxy tiles of Windows 8. Applications built for Windows 8 will also run in individual windows.
Microsoft is also working on a design that will automatically switch Windows modes depending on whether a device is being used as a tablet or as a laptop with a mouse and keyboard plugged in. In tablet mode, the design is based on touch-focused Windows 8, while the laptop mode is more like Windows 7.
Microsoft wants Windows to be at the center of people’s digital lives, where all content can be portable and users can toggle easily between phones, tablets, laptops and PCs. At the same time, the failure of Windows to gain market share on mobile phones and tablets means that the strategy must also encompass first-class experiences on rival devices, said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a researcher based in Kirkland, Washington.
“At some point Windows has empowered each of us, ” Myerson said at the event, which was called a technical preview. “But we all know the world in which Windows has grown up has changed. Devices now outnumber people.”
The Redmond, Washington-based company chose to show what is a very early and unfinished version of Windows to convey to customers that it wants feedback and will build the final product based on that input - a change from Windows 8, where the development process was more closed and where partners and customers were brought in later.
When Microsoft first unveiled Windows 8 to developers in 2011, the attitude was, “this is Windows, you will like it, ” Miller said. Now, the posture is more, “we really hope you like it, let us know if you don’t, ” he said.
“The consumers of today are often the enterprise users of tomorrow, ” Miller said. “We have to see something that keeps moving the ball forward for consumers and tablets, and moving the ball forward for enterprises.”