07 Nov 2014

Why Microsoft was right to skip Windows 9

Not long ago, Microsoft announced that it would be releasing Windows 10 next year. This confused more than a few people, since the Windows 8 that they were desperately trying to avoid upgrading to should have, logically, been followed by a Windows 9 before we got to the double digits.

But this is not a simple case of Microsoft forgetting how to count, or having a phobia of the number 9. This was a deliberate, and clever strategy by Microsoft to distance itself as far as possible from an operating system that had languished in the market.

Approximately 20 per cent of organisations adopted Windows 8. In some ways that wasn’t going to surprise anyone, as Microsoft has a history of releasing an operating system that is nearly universally loved, and then following it up with one that most try and avoid. Windows 8 follows on from Windows 7, which was one of the most popular and well-received operating systems the company has ever produced. Historically the company has used one Windows release to break new ground, and the second to refine it to the point where most people are happy with it, and one would assume that this is what is happening here, based on early impressions of Windows 10; it’s enhancing Windows 8 in all the right places while maintaining the previous operating system’s heritage.

Further, Microsoft has a new CEO now, and with the appointment of Satya Nadella, a new vision. For Nadella, 10 is a nice, rounded number, and linguistically speaking without the number 9 bridging 8 and 10, there’s an immediate chasm between them in terms of how people will perceive them. It’s simple marketing psychology in practice, but it means a lot in execution – by adding 1 to the new operating system’s number, Microsoft has helped guarantee that customers will not immediately associate the new one with the old one.

So Nadella is putting his stamp on Windows with what amounts to a fresh start. There’s a while to go before the operating system will be released in full, but some of the early new features promised include:

  • Snap enhancements – a new layout that allows up to four applications to be arranged on one screen
  • Task view – a task bar button that allows the user to see all open apps and files and switch between them as required
  • Multiple desktops – users can create and switch between multiple desktop screens, allowing the user to group distinct workloads together.

These features will help the usability of the operating system, for both consumer and user. At the same time Microsoft is sticking with the tile aesthetic, which customers continue to respond well to, and will be nice and familiar to workers who also use Windows phones or an Xbox at home.

Microsoft’s dedication to creating a single, unified experience across all devices appears to remain firm. There’s still a long way to go – realistically it will be at least 12 months before we can see the final cut of Windows 10, but with a fresh reset to the counting of Windows products, Windows 10 has some very exciting potential indeed.