Windows 10: The Transition From Software To Service
Today Microsoft announced further details on its upcoming Windows 10 operating system. Available now in preview form and due for release later this year, Windows 10 will bring a raft of new features to the platform, many which are designed to integrate the new interface concepts introduced in Windows 8 with the flexibility and consistency of the classic Windows desktop.
One of Windows 10's key new features is its price: free (with a few caveats).
This announcement indicates that the trend toward software as a service has finally reached the world's largest software platform.
Google has always been in the business of advertising, and in that model, it made sense to give their core platform away for free. A few years ago, Apple- which is focused on hardware revenues- came to the same conclusion and stopped charging for upgrades to its Mac OS X operating system.
Microsoft has always been in the software business, and for a long time, they've struggled against this trend, since they make money by selling software. But as alternate platforms like the web, iOS, and Android have taken off, Microsoft has been forced to adapt by expanding their platform to encompass software and services that run across the whole spectrum of ecosystems- not just Windows.
In this new worldview, the entirety of the Microsoft platform is the key value proposition, and anything that stands in the way of extending its reach and ubiquity gets in the way. Making Windows available for free, in an always-connected, always-updated manner is key to maintaining the relevance of the broader Microsoft platform.
In many ways, Windows was one of the first smash hit software products, and revenues from Windows upgrades propelled Microsoft for decades. Now that the purpose of Windows has changed from cash-cow to platform tentpole, the final shoe has dropped and the days of traditional software products, as defined by the world's largest software company, are behind us.
More than any feature of technical innovation, Windows 10's price is its biggest innovation and will have the most profound impact.