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3 things Microsoft has to prove at its Windows 10 event

Scott M. Fulton, III | Jan. 19, 2015
It could be the venerable operating system's last time at bat on the public stage, unless it pulls off this trifecta.

When Microsoft unveils the consumer editions of Windows 10 this week, key questions about the OS will be on the table. Will Windows remain relevant? In a world of choices, would you willingly choose Windows 10? And in a business where others make these choices for you, would they choose Windows 10?

Its been said that, for people to want Windows 10 more than they did Windows 8, the system needs to return to many of the designs, themes, and functions of Windows 7. Well, theres already one competitor purporting to have all of Windows 7s most beloved features, and that competitor is called Windows 7. True, theres something to be said for the persistent value of familiarity just look at BlackBerry's turnaround strategy, anchored on producing devices that remind people of BlackBerrys.

But reruns are cheap. If Windows 10 is merely a retread, people will make do with Windows 7 a year or two longer, and Windows 10 wont succeed. The opportunity would arise for a competitor to seize the moment. At the other end of the scale, if Windows 10 adopts yet another new user experience that reminds the veteran user of nothing whatsoever, it wont succeed. Wednesdays event at Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, headquarters will be a high-wire act for Microsoft, but this time theres no safety net.

This will be a consumer-focused event, although businesses will also be watching the proceedings, which will be webcast and feature top executives including CEO Satya Nadella.

For all the reasons Windows 8 was rejected by businesses, the main reason was enough: Retraining employees comes at a sizable cost. So it will be incumbent upon Microsoft to produce, borrowing a legal phrase, a plea for continuance: a reason for users to keep believing in the potential of the product until at least next fall.

To pull this off, Microsoft has to prove to its customers the following:

1. The Windows 10 usage model can be both familiar and new. Usage model means the methodology, but also the philosophy, behind using the product. Facebook has a usage model thats fundamental to its entire platform on all devices. Microsoft must have a similar usage model in mind for Windows 10.

Windows Mobile tried to appear familiar to phone users by looking like a PC, with a start menu and a taskbar. That failed. When Windows 8 tried to appeal to PC users by looking similar to the compact, tile-strewn world of Windows Phone 8, that failed too. Users dont want one device to look or act like the other, and they dont need both devices to be used the same way, in order for them to perceive both systems as Windows.


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