Windows Threshold Event: 6 Things To Expect - InformationWeek

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9/27/2014
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Windows Threshold Event: 6 Things To Expect

Microsoft has much to prove when it shows off the next version of Windows at an event this Tuesday. Here's what to expect.

some had thought, but the biggest growth paths are still in the mobile sphere. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner testified to as much last summer at the company's partners conference, where he said Microsoft has around 90% of the PC market, but only 14% of the larger PC-smartphone-tablet space.

OS Group head Terry Myerson and corporate VP Joe Belfiore will run Tuesday's event, and the latter's presence strongly indicates some mobile talk; Belfiore is known primarily as the Windows Phone boss. Moreover, Nadella has said Threshold will converge Microsoft's various platforms into a single OS. If this is true, it should be difficult for Microsoft to discuss Threshold without at least alluding to mobile features.

In the desktop Threshold, even though Microsoft has backpedaled to a more traditional UI, the interface will still include traces of the mobile-oriented hybridity that drove Windows 8. Users will be able to configure the new Start menu as a single column, like in Windows 7, or with a second column of user-selected Live Tiles, for example. Will anyone use this second column? Windows Threshold will inherit Windows 8.1's "app gap," so if Microsoft wants to convince more desktop users to try out a few Modern titles, the Windows Store needs more compelling apps. Expect this topic to come up, even if only in the context of line-of-business apps, during Tuesday's event.

4. Microsoft will tell us Threshold's real name.
Microsoft recently announced that it will deploy more Windows feature updates via monthly releases, like it does with security patches, instead of through large "service packs" released at lengthy intervals. Thanks to this shift, Nadella's cloud focus, and a few rumors, some expect Microsoft to stop using numbered versions with Threshold; instead of Windows 9, 10, and so on, it could be just "Windows" from now on. Microsoft's advertising already takes this tactic; commercials refer to "the new Windows" or "Windows with Office," but never to "Windows 8.1."

But Microsoft employees have accidentally referenced "Windows 9" at least twice. The second instance prompted Microsoft to clarify that Threshold doesn't yet have an official name, which reinforces rumors that company leaders are still debating the issue. Some within Microsoft reportedly want to use Windows 9 in order to differentiate the new version from Windows 8's poor reputation.

5. Expect a Threshold version of Windows Server to be discussed.
Microsoft also reportedly is readying a preview of the Threshold version of Windows Server. Given the enterprise-oriented nature of Tuesday's event, it's likely Windows Server will be on the agenda. Support for popular Windows Server 2003 support ends July 14, 2015, setting up a potentially Windows XP-like scenario if Microsoft doesn't persuade customers to upgrade.

6. Expect a surprise or two.
Windows rumors have been flying fast and furious lately, and it's likely that some of the leaked details are either incomplete or misunderstood. Most intriguingly, references to "Windows as a Service" have been popping up for several months. Will this Tuesday be the day we finally find out what that means? If not, will we get our official first look at the next version of Office?

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 10:30:08 PM
Re: Nothing new for the satisfied user
"Unfortunately, manufacturers whose products benefit from device integration are ignoring the touch-first side of Windows.  They advertise iOS and Android apps.  Once in a blue moon I see Windows Phone and to an even lesser extent, the touch side of desktop Windows."

Definitely true.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2014 | 10:26:31 PM
Re: windows
@Technocrati,


Indeed! But after Halloween, OEMs won't be able to buy new Win 7 licenses from Microsoft anymore. I'm sure many of the manufacturers have amassed a supply-- but who knows how long it lasts.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/28/2014 | 5:48:02 PM
Re: Nothing new for the satisfied user
Waqas,

Yes, I think that's fair-- to say Win 8 wasn't "tempting" enough, and that a lot of people using Windows 7 are so satisfied that they don't see a reason to upgrade.

This brings up one of the challenges for Windows 9/ Threshold. Windows 8 did poorly both because it presented usability challenges and because it didn't offer new, exciting features. Perhaps Threshold will resolve the usability issues, and reassure businesses that they won't have to retrain employees. But even if Threshold is usable, will it be persuasive to those who are still happy with Windows 7?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/28/2014 | 5:43:35 PM
Re: windows
Waqas,

It depends how you define "gaining ground." Apple and Windows OEMs aren't always going after the same goals.

In a sense, its true that Windows hasn't really lost ground, per se, in the PC market; its market share before Windows 8 was about the same as it is today-- around 90%.

That said, the PC market is huge, and recent trends can't immediately topple long-term ones. Over the long-term, Windows built up such a commanding lead, over so many generations of machines, that it would take Apple decades (and a major change in strategy) to compete for overall share. But Apple doesn't care about overall share, and recent trends are a bit different than long-term market statistics might imply. 

One recent survey found almost 27% of consumers bought an Apple computer during the recent back-to-school period, for example. The survey found that compared to the last few years, Macs were more popular and Windows machines were less popular.

Given that most Apple computers cost more than $1000, it follows from the survey that Macs simply dominate the high-end PC market. The survey also suggests a user base that far exceeds "specific brand-conscious" consumers and "art lovers."

High-end Windows 2-in-1s, on the other hands, accounted for less than 15% of Windows consumer devices from the same period-- meaning that MacBooks and iMacs outsold 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro by at least 3 to 1.

Moreover, despite Microsoft's recent efforts to increase the number of low-cost Windows options, the survey found Chromebooks accounted for 1 out of 5 sub-$300 notebook sales. 

For years, Apple has earned most of the PC industry's profits despite its "lesser" market share. If the recent survey is representative of larger trends, I expect Apple will continue to reign supreme in this important metric. Broadly speaking, Windows OEMs sell a ton of cheap PCs to businesses and professionals, whereas Apple sells a lot of Macs to students, consumers and some professionals who have the money to be discerning. Chromebooks sell to budget-conscious people who want a simple machine. I expect Windows will continue to be the OS with the most PC market share, even if Windows 9/Threshold is only okay-- but Microsoft is certainly feeling pressure from Apple at the top and Google at the bottom.
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