Windows is the undisputed heavyweight champion in the old-school laptop, desktop and arguably server divisions, and its reign seems set to continue. In the new bright world of mobile devices, Microsoft, at least in terms of market share, remains a weakling. It will take an awful lot of determination, blood, sweat and tears to change that, not to mention vast amounts of time and money. We are told by Mary Jo Foley that Microsoft are prepared to spend as much as it takes, and who are we to doubt such a luminary?
The present mobile ecosystem of operating systems, vendors and manufacturers is fragmented, closed-minded and confused. Microsoft will probably, ultimately, put up a good fight with Windows 10, but this will increase, not reduce, the number of device types and form factors. Our previous articles show we think it is laudable and entirely understandable that Microsoft have decided to push forward with making their services and products available on as many of these devices as possible now, rather than sitting and waiting for the day Windows 10 is delivered, let alone adopted.
Microsoft are hoping Windows 10 will be the operating system of choice whatever the device. This is an unprecedented undertaking in the history of personal computing, and we await the outcome with interest. So far, my experience with the latest Windows 10 Preview on a Dell Venue 11 Pro tablet shows that they are making progress. It is a lot snappier and more responsive than Windows 8.1 on the same hardware. It already offers a much more seamless tablet experience than Windows 8.1, and does not drop you back to the desktop anyway near as often. This is a good thing.
Perhaps Windows 10 will not be an operating system after all, but a service, possibly called Windows 365. We find this amusing, ironic even, given that we are old enough to remember Microsoft’s anti-trust troubles all those years ago after having the temerity to bundle a browser with their operating system. The only trace of that left in the computing landscape of today, at least for Europeans, is the terrible Browser Choice app that the European Union in all its wisdom insists on still forcing upon us every time we get a new Windows machine, upgrade one, or create a user account.
One would have thought that fifteen years would be plenty of time for even the most dim-witted internet user, even a Eurocrat, to have learned how to use a browser, any web browser, to visit say google.com/chrome, firefox.com, or even vivaldi.com. Vivaldi is a new and exciting, undeniably quirky and downright weird, yet promising reinvention of the browser. It is brought to you by most of the team of hirsute Norsemen who for some reason invented and kept on trying to bring Opera onto a world that sensibly and resolutely kept rejecting their advances.
It is also ironic, that Google, whose main source of profit is through their search engine, a truly useful and excellent service, have in Chrome built a browser that effectively bundles an operating system, at least in terms of its voluminous API and its gigantic memory footprint.
The future of Windows may be uncertain, but it is certain to be exciting and full of surprises, even to someone like me who has been using it since version 3.0. Windows may have evolved beyond recognition since then, and is apparently branching into holograms, but for me the ultimate irony is that its once revolutionary user interface paradigm of a grid of icons and folders with icons is not only still alive, but completely dominates the world of mobile devices running iOS and Android.