Microsoft has given Windows 7 users more reasons to skip to Windows 10.
The software giant announced details about its new operating system last night. While focussing on consumer features, some elements of the vendor's strategy have implications for the enterprise.
For many businesses, the most exciting change from Windows 8 might be the return to an interface that looks more like Windows 7, including a reworked Start Menu.
"That will certainly help keep Microsoft keeps its business market share [after] the disillusionment we saw with Windows 8," Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda told Computerworld Australia.
Telsyte research has found that many businesses might treat Windows 8 like they did Windows Vista, he said.
"A significant percentage of the Windows user base is looking to skip Windows 8 and go to the next generation."
Microsoft seeks to move a fractured Windows user base to the same platform, said Forrester.
Though Microsoft reports that Windows 8 has been installed on more than 100 million PCs, that's less than 10% of the 1.5 billion PCs in use," Forrester wrote in a research paper.
"Thus Microsoft, developers, and I&O execs face a fractured installed base led by Windows 7 PCs, with a mix of Windows 8 and badly lagging Windows Vista and Windows XP PCs."
Read more:Will enterprises skip Windows 8 for 10?
Forrester said it's upbeat that Windows 10 with its more familiar interface can turn things around.
"Windows 10 will become the new enterprise standard -- the successor to Windows 7 -- a status that Windows 8 was unable to attain."
The consumer pricing announced by Microsoft certainly doesn't punish those who have avoided Windows 8. Microsoft said it won't charge Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1 users for Windows 10 if they buy it within the first year of launch. Microsoft has not yet announced enterprise pricing.
Microsoft described a new approach to upgrades it calls "Windows as a Service."
"This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device -- at no additional charge," according to the Microsoft blog.
Microsoft appears to be following other operating systems in providing free upgrades, but confusion remains over exactly how this pricing model will work. For example, Gedda said it's unclear what "current for supported lifetime of the device" will actually mean in practice.
"Microsoft and its partners will decide that, and then where do consumers and businesses go from there?" he asked. "Will they have to pay to upgrade to Windows 11? Same perpetual licence model all over again?"
With Windows 10, Microsoft appears keen to make good on its promises to deliver a unified experience across the varied array of devices that consumers and workers use today.
"The main trend of where Microsoft is heading was not much of a surprise -- it wants one interface across all types of devices and form factors," said Gedda.
This includes universal applications for Windows 10 -- apps that Microsoft promises will work across the PC, tablet, phone, Xbox and Internet of Things objects. Microsoft said it is building universal Office apps, as well as mail, calendar and photos applications.
Also, Gedda said it's good to see Microsoft modernising Windows and committing to a more frequent release cycle of new features. "In this day and age, Microsoft can't afford to languish with Windows."
In addition to the Windows 10 features, Microsoft announced two pieces of new hardware that could find a home in the enterprise.
The Microsoft HoloLens is an augmented reality headset for Windows 10 that Microsoft promises will blend digital visuals into the real world -- effectively creating holograms in a user's surrounding environment.
In the Microsoft video revealing the HoloLens, people are shown visualising concept designs for products they are designing, taking video calls while walking through the office, and receiving step-by-step instructions on how to fix a sink via a video call and visual overlay on the pipes.
Microsoft also revealed the Surface Hub, a big-screen device designed to replace whiteboards and videoconferencing gear in the conference room. The piece of tech will come in 54-inch and 84-inch versions.
"It could find a nice niche in that market where people have room-based videoconferencing systems," said Gedda. In particular, it could interest large, distributed organisations that need to connect employees in offices around the globe, he said.