In a couple of days from now, Microsoft will stand on stage and announce some part of their plan for Windows 10. After covering Microsoft for many years, it seems the company continues to struggle when turning vision into reality. Windows 10 and 2015 are key milestones in the company’s life and there’s some massive opportunities on the table if they get the execution of ideas and product exactly right. What you’re about to read is the thoughts and opinions of what Microsoft should do, based on what we know as possible today, not a 10-year futuristic wish list, but corporate decisions they could make today that would elevate the company in the eyes of consumers, media and the world.
The Technical Preview of Windows 10 today, gives us a window into what’s changing in the next release. This has so far focused on addressing the complaints users have had with Windows 8/8.1. When we understand that most, if not all, of the team that constructed the vision for Windows 8 have moved on, the new team aren’t bound by the same vision, but also doesn’t seem to share it. It was ambitious for Microsoft to attempt to build an OS that scales from a 7” tablet, right up to an 82” perceptive pixel display and every laptop and desktop in between. For that they need credit, the execution definitely needed work, but the core premise was sound, despite receiving widespread criticism.
Here’s what Microsoft should be announcing on January 22nd.
The things we’ve announced so far, like the return of the start menu, improved multi-monitor support, advances in Power Shell, were just the beginning. Our changes to Windows 10 are far more dramatic. In the next release of Windows we’re going end-to-end, as a platform company with more than 128,000 employees, there’s not a company on this planet that’s better positioned to be the brand that builds the software and services that enrich your life. Windows 10 will be the platform that drives devices from your watch, to your phone, to your tablet, pc, tv and every single connected device in your home.
The Internet of Things has promised the world a lot and has so far been a mess for consumers. This year, we’re taking connected devices, including every category we just mentioned and we’re making them ‘just work’. We know how the networking and power management stacks work, we know the operation and application levels that control these devices, so in Windows 10, we’ll include a brand new app called Windows Devices. A new team in Microsoft have spent the past 18 months tracking, monitoring and working with the most successful IoT platforms and when you open the Windows Devices app later today, it will identify and seamlessly connect to 97% of the smart devices on the market today.
We no longer think about computing as that PC on your desk, in reality, it’s every piece of electronics you interact with and these are all about to know about each other and work together to make your lives better. Today we’re announcing the acquisition of the amazing service, IFTTT, which allows everyday users to easily control hardware and software without knowing a line of code. The service will continue as is, but the acquisition allows Microsoft to leverage this technology to execute on the Windows Devices strategy today.
Let me give you some examples. You’ve seen our connected home experience vision videos in years gone by, well we’re tired of talking and have made it a reality. When you walk in the door, you’re lighting comes on, regardless of whether your using Phillips Hue, LIFX or SmartThings, the same music or radio station you were listening to in the car, continues playing through speakers around your home. Displays wake up as you walk through different rooms, each showing you relevant information. Upcoming appointments for the evening, or a selection of activities you commonly do that day of the week, that time of the year. If you come home and sit on the couch on Thursdays and always switch to the same channel, we’ll do that for you.
Microsoft devices combine to give you access to your own usage patterns, then surface these to devices around your home. If you have a Wi-Fi enabled robot vacuum cleaner, you won’t need to schedule it for specific dates and times, just allow it to leverage your Microsoft Devices information and it’ll know the house is always empty at 11am on Tuesdays and Fridays. Most households don’t have a single person that lives there and for that we allow users to connect to each other.
Family usage and presence information will intelligently combine. This means if you’re home alone, you probably want the SONOS system turned up loud with a dubstep Spotify playlist, but if your wife and kids are home, you’ll want it at a lower volume and set to the TV.
To simplify this process, we reached out to Facebook and are today, announcing a partnership that allows you to leverage the information you’ve already entered. We considered what existing information is in the world would get us closest to knowing who’s in a household. The answer is your Facebook graph. According to their data, 63% of user accounts already indicate the relationship status between family members. We can combine that relationship information with the average age of people leaving home for a given country and make intelligent assumptions about who is living at your address. There are of course exceptions to the rule and we make it a drag and drop experience to modify this where necessary, but for a majority of users, this will happen automatically.
We can also leverage other products like Belkin’s WeMo Motion Sensor to gather real data about movement in the home. When there’s not been activity for a specified period of time, then routines could run. We believe some users will leverage this data for automated tasks, but others will use it for safety and security purposes.
By the time it launches, Windows 10 will introduce thousands of changes including some seriously useful features like the ability to uninstall multiple applications at the same time, something that has frustrated users for years. There’s also completely refreshed apps like Paint, Notepad, Calculator and more. The shear scale of the changes will amaze even the most hardcore Windows fan.
Today we’re announcing the Windows 10 Developer Preview which will be released immediately at the conclusion of this event. We’re releasing it today so developers can take advantage the amazing new features in this release and those enthusiasts who also want to try it out can provide feedback to make Windows 10 even better.
Now let’s talk about Xbox. For years we’ve looked at the living room as a massive unrealised opportunity after all, it’s where your families spend lots of hours every single day. When we launched Xbox One, we rewrote the platform and that meant old games no longer worked. That was a tough decision to make, but one we had to make to do this.
Today we’re announcing a world first, the Xbox One will be the first console to receive an Operating System upgrade. PC users are used to this transition, but for the Xbox its as easy as updating your phone. Windows 10 on Xbox will allow us to execute a more than 20-year vision for the largest screen in your home.
When the update ships to the Xbox One, we’ll be allowing developers to publish their universal apps through the Xbox Store. This will spawn a whole new era of applications and transform your TV viewing experience. Developers will finally be able to create one solution in Visual Studio and publish apps to the TV, PC, Tablet and Phone and we’re not done there.
While applications can run in full-screen or snapped view, we’re also enabling brand new kinds of applications. Thanks to a very important inclusion in the Xbox One, you can input TV via a HDMI cable. Thanks to the power of the Xbox One, we will allow applications to interact with the content on-screen. Using transparent hotspots and voice commands, you’ll be able to not only see an ad, but finally take action immediately, all by clicking, or saying “buy it”. There’ll also be options to “save for later”, “add to wishlist” or “gift to a friend”.
We believe this new kind of application will allow advertisers and audiences to have new kinds of relationships. A growing trend over the years has been product placement in TV shows and movies. Where the content comes over IP, there’s even more possibilities for the content provider and developers to work together and both make money. We believe the living room is one of the next biggest marketplaces and we have the necessary pieces to make that puzzle finally work.
Until now, ads have been broadcast in the hope that they’re reaching the right demographic. Thanks to the power of Kinect, we can now enable relevant advertising based specifically on the people in the room. This takes ads from being annoying to useful, especially when you see a product you like, you can take action on it immediately.
Today we’re announcing the Xbox One will receive the Windows 10 upgrade on the same day of the Windows 10 RTM release.
Since changing to a ‘mobile first, cloud first’ company, many of you have questioned our commitment to Windows Phone. We understand as some of our efforts weren’t well communicated and that changes today. First off, we’re sticking with Windows Phone as the name, we believe it’s a strong brand and going back to Windows Mobile would take us one step back when we want to be 5 steps forward.
We understand our position in the market and this year you’ll see us take a very aggressive product strategy. To date, we realise we’re number 3 in the market behind Android and iOS. The opportunity for Microsoft services is to cater for users on those other platforms, but you’ll now see us demonstrate why Windows Phone is the best experience.
We’ve worked hard to improve the features of Windows Phone, but the competition isn’t standing still either. We need to do more and we are. We are investing 10x the number of employees in the Windows Phone team, if that doesn’t illustrate the commitment we have to the platform, I don’t know what will. Most of these new positions will be developers, allocated to the rapid development and rollout of new features.
We’re making a change to the way we roll out software. For years the carriers have been between us and the customer and that ends today. We asked ourselves, why can Apple achieve this but we can’t, there wasn’t a good reason, so we fixed it. This isn’t just in the US, this is globally. If a carrier wants to do business with Microsoft, updates come with the contract. We need take on some of their network protection testing, but by doing that, updates will reach consumers fast, really fast.
This change is a key part of how we plan on not just catching up, but heading for that top spot. We have some fantastic new, flagship devices from our partners who will be ready to show them at this year’s Mobile World Congress. All of these new devices will ship in 2015, running Windows 10.
In previous versions, we’ve kept the phone and desktop numbering the same, but now there’s a real reason. Windows 10 on the phone is the same OS that runs on the desktop and the Xbox One. Each device will enable different functionality based on the hardware, but at the core, it is Windows 10 running on all platforms.
This gives us some unique capabilities, not seen before. When you place a Windows Phone down on the desk next to your PC, the two know about each other. If this happens to be in the lounge room, you’re Xbox One will also know the other 2 devices are nearby. We leverage this information to finally end the duplicate notifications problem. You choose the primary device and when you have others in the same place, OS and app notifications are sent to that device only. As soon as you pick up your phone and leave, those notifications come with you.
We’ll have lots more to share on Windows Mobile at MWC in early March, but expect lots more context aware applications and by the way, the new Windows Devices will also be an app for mobile.
Last year we launched our first wearable, the Microsoft Band. The demand has been overwhelming and we’ve struggled to keep it in stock. Knowing it’s popular, we could have sat back and spent 2015 rolling it out to the rest of the world. Instead we challenged our engineers to pack the same 10 live monitoring sensors in a smaller package with better battery life.
Today’s we’re also announcing the Microsoft Band 2. The band 2 is the first device running Windows 10 embedded. When we launched the Band, we told you we were listening to feedback and we weren’t joking. Based on user feedback, we’re now adding a curved OLED display that makes the Band 2 far more powerful in the applications and use cases possible.
Unlike the guys in Cupertino, Redmond doesn’t just have a watch, we have a device that will change your life. The connected lifestyle improvements we spoke of earlier, get even more exciting when we go past the phone and to a super-smart wearable that understands more about you.
At launch we talked briefly about turning the metrics produced by the Band into recommendations for change, well now we’re going next-level. A connected Band will understand the meetings you have, when, where and with who, and who that person is to you, a friend of a friend or your boss. It’ll understand you commute and time spent in traffic, it’ll know you as a person and use that understanding to power behavioural changes to make your life better.
A simple example of this is your daily commute. You may take the same way to work each day out of habit, but the Band 2 with Windows 10, will give you hours back in your week and years back in your life thanks to a constantly connected transportation network. This ensures you always travel the optimal route, unless you have a pitch meeting where you need to be ‘on’, then you may get suggested a Starbucks on the way.
Many business customers will be familiar with previous versions of embedded in retail point of sale terminals and cars. Another big announcement from us today is that we’re also jumping version numbers, straight to Windows 10 Embedded.
Like the other platforms running Windows 10, Windows 10 embedded runs the same core. With Visual Studio 2015, developers can now write applications that run in supermarkets, gyms, restaurants and more. We’ll be providing great samples to allow developers to handle complex payments securely, so they can focus on UI and UX.
When we said at the start Windows 10 was an end-to-end solution, we weren’t kidding. Applications in retail can communicate, so a tablet located at the table of a restaurant for ordering, can talk directly to the POS terminal running Windows 10 Embedded, making ordering and payment a completely wireless experience.
We expect new dining experiences to become much more like the Uber experience. Once you have an account with a business and accept you’ll always pay for the meal, there’s no need for cash to be present at the table. Sit down, enjoy your meal and when you leave, you’ll be billed for what you ate and drink. As you leave the restaurant, you’ll receive an email with your receipt.
Our voice assistant Cortana is already highly regarded as incredibly accurate and fast, and she’s about to get a whole lot better. As many of you know through the leaked builds of Windows 10, we’re bringing Cortana from the phone to the desktop and tablet. We’re also bringing Cortana to the Xbox One (via Kinect) and Wearables.
This means that almost anywhere in your house, you can say a command and Cortana will respond. Like the multi-device understandings we covered earlier, Cortana is smart enough to detect where the strongest device that registers the strongest voice signal and activate on that only.
If you’re a Microsoft customer for your phone, console, PC and other devices, you’ll now get a single, voice-activated experience to control them all. This means if you’re finishing cooking in the kitchen, and say “Cortana, watch TV and snap Twitter.” The microphone in your Windows Phone sends the command to Cortana, she understands your intent, turns on your Xbox and TV, and switches to the TV application, also snapping Twitter to the side. By the time you walk from the kitchen to the lounge with your meal to sit on the couch, it’s all ready and waiting.
Cortana also works with your IoT devices, so if you watch a movie on Xbox Video, Cortana will automatically dim the lights and close the curtains.
You can also get IoT device notifications anywhere Cortana is, so if your washing machine finishes a load of washing, the music in your headphones will fade down and alert you the washing is done. You’ll never forget again thanks to Cortana and Windows 10.
Windows 10 Azure
Microsoft Azure continues to amaze us in its rapid market growth and we attribute a lot of that to the new features constantly being added by our team. This new part of our business now generates more than a billion dollars for the company and the services it powers will just continue to grow.
To date a lot of these have been targeted towards business and developers and we think there’s room for consumers to take advantage of Azure as well.
Our investments in Machine Learning are resulting in some amazing new outcomes from big data that even surprise us. Today we’re announcing Windows 10 Azure, a new app exclusively for Windows 10 users that allows you to learn more about yourself and your behavior over time.
You set the things you want to track, permit the information to flow, then you can sort, filter and share the information you want. The key to this application is that it helps you make informed decisions based on hard data, rather than approximations or guesses.
With a simple and easy interface you can analyse data much the same way PowerBI works for business. We support datasets like financials, health, computer time, home energy power usage and many many more. The power of this application is unlike anything you’ve experienced before and uber personal.
We’ll have more to say on closer to the release of Windows 10. Just expect consumers to access and benefit Azure services more than businesses.
Windows 10 will be released late in 2015 and we hope you’re all as excited about the future as we are at Microsoft. One final thing.. Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 8.0/8.1 users to reward those who came along for the journey.
If you want to watch the live stream event of ‘Windows 10: The Next Chapter’, you can do it here on January 21 at 9:00am Pacific Standard Time.