Windows 10 is about productivity — for businesses and consumers
Contrasting enterprise with consumers when talking about Windows 10 makes no sense.
Microsoft has lost a lot clout when it comes to its core consumer users. Whether it's Windows Phone, Groove, or Microsoft Band, those who invested in some of Microsoft's earlier visions rightly feel a sense of resentment.
But what about Windows 10? I often hear that Microsoft is not doing enough to add consumer-friendly features, but instead, it is more interested in business and enterprise. The question I have: What does that even mean?
Consumer versus productivity
Part of this article was inspired by a recent quote by Brad Sams at Petri who addressed some of the latest Microsoft re-org news and what it means for Windows. One line stuck out for me:
My initial reaction is some of that makes sense for Microsoft. After all, licenses to corporations and governments for Windows 10 are a huge cash cow. Losing that crowd (or at least angering the IT managers) is something to be avoided. And many organizations are not happy with the cadence of Windows 10 updates, which stresses their job.
With Microsoft's seeming pullback from front-line consumer offerings, this sounds like another notch for the snide observation that "Microsoft wants to be just like IBM."
But what is a business feature, really? And what is a consumer one?
Going to extremes, I can think of examples like Microsoft Intune for mobile and app management as being purely business. That's an enterprise feature, and no consumer would want or need that.
At the other end, for consumers, there is gaming. In no world is the status of casual or even hardcore PC gaming a concern for Fortune 500 companies. Adding Game Bar to Windows 10 is not even on their radar, for example
If Microsoft is deprioritizing consumer features for business ones, what would that look like?
It's about productivity, not division
I question the seemingly old division between consumer and enterprise features for an OS. The Windows 10 Spring 2018 1803 update (a.k.a. Redstone 4) has many new feature that are neither consumer- or business-only. For instance:
- New Timeline feature for syncing history across devices.
- Nearby Share to features shares content between PCs on the same network.
- Fluent design improvements everywhere.
- UI and UX changes and enhancements.
- New Microsoft Edge design and improved features like EPUB and PDF support.
- Redesign of Cortana, the addition of Lists and Collections, and a new Skills section.
- Input changes, including one that lets pen users see a handwriting panel automatically popup when selecting a text field.
- Storage Sense now includes Disk Cleanup settings and functions.
None of that is particularly exciting (although Timeline and Nearby Share are huge for me), but it's hard to look at that list – or the entire changelog – and make a call which changes are consumer-only and which are for business.
The entire focus of Redstone 4 appears to be productivity, or making Windows 10 better at doing stuff including sharing and processing information. That's not unique to Redstone 4 either, as the previous releases have also focused on "creativity" and adding features that both consumer and business users can leverage.
A changing world
Making Windows 10 better at doing stuff is the right approach. The line between your work at home versus what you may do at work is diminishing. People often want their computers to handle both work and private life on the same machine. People also want hardware they can use at work and home that is elegant, premium, and can do everything.
That's why I'm confused about how Microsoft could only focus on one category and not the other. I've heard internally Microsoft refers to all Windows 10 customers just as endpoints – whether artists, engineers, students, scientists, journalists, or office professionals.
Even something like Microsoft Teams, only thought of as a business feature, is now in classrooms. What's suitable for the 50-year-old office drone is now good enough for your kid in sixth grade.
When you look at the one extreme of consumer-only features, gaming, Microsoft is going in heavy. I've heard investment in Mixer.com is massive and increasing; Xbox Play Anywhere support is growing; and we're finally getting real PC games in the Microsoft Store.
It's no secret that Xbox head Phil Spencer, who was recently promoted to the leadership team, is keen on the idea of Xbox streaming as a service. The recent formation of an Xbox Azure team testifies to that concept.
Loving the latest version of Windows 10. Lot of new gaming features coming in next versions too - but PR would kill me if I divulged that info. :oLoving the latest version of Windows 10. Lot of new gaming features coming in next versions too - but PR would kill me if I divulged that info. :o— Mike Ybarra (@Qwik) April 5, 2018April 5, 2018
Mike Ybarra, corporate vice president of gaming at Microsoft, recently dropped a big hint of the continued focus on gaming in the forthcoming released of Windows 10 this fall.
So, the one consumer-only feature related to Windows 10 is the also the one area where the company is investing heavily. From what I have heard internally, none of that is changing. We'll hear more about it at E3 this summer.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that by no means is Windows 10 perfect or idealized for consumers either. Microsoft has a way to go in bringing Fluent Design to the entire OS or transitioning old UI elements to the new design language.
But when I asked people on Twitter what feature is missing in Windows 10 compared to macOS or Chrome OS, most struggled. Many of the complaints were things like regional-restrictions on Cortana, marketing, or missing apps in the Microsoft Store. But these are well-established and not missing, just things that are incomplete or need massive improvement.
There are some legitimate gaps in Windows 10. Things like a modern movie maker and music app, better family controls, and improved Apple-like AirPlay features between mobile and PC. But at its core, Windows 10 is still a potent OS. Even when there is an app missing in the Microsoft Store, there is always the vast swath of older PC apps and games that anyone can install.
Touch is also another very common complaint as tablet mode still seems subpar compared to Windows 8.
Microsoft's biggest problem, which is well established, is the lack of any skin in the phone business. That's a devastating issue but also now separate from the development of Windows 10.
As to the future of Microsoft's OS, I think it's safe to say it's evolving. The push away from centralized, local computing models to cloud-based, distributed processing is on the horizon and with it goes Microsoft.
For now, Windows 10 is about doing more work, better. The update this fall should include Sets and Cloud Clipboard, both of which again straddle the business and consumer markets. The strength of Windows is about doing work, and that focus has not changed because there is no distinction between students, business pros, or you.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.
- VideoStudio Pro (Does Variable Speeds well :-) Ridic Format Support, i.e. MOV without Qt installed.)
- Vegas Studio Platinum (Prefer traditional UI, fast, integrated Sound Forge well)
- Sound Forge Audio Studio (nothing better - except pro version; not even Audacity)
- Magic Music Maker Plus + Audio Cleaning Lab (Mukti-Track and Cleanup) The thing that DOES hurt on Windows is the lack of basic productivity software. macOS has iWork, and that's actually enough for a home user. Windows only has WordPad and NotePad. They should have kept Works around to bundle. You even have to search for screen recording software (built into macOS vi s QuickTime). There's nothing for Podcasts in Windows, or Audioboks. The eBook and PDF experiences are still subpar, IMO. They can have a phone integration platform, but Google and Apple themselves would never use it. Without an actual mobile platform, it's useless. I would have gone back to Windows Phone, even with a large app gap, had they implemented Apple-level device integration. It didn't hapoen, so I bought an iPhone very quickly followed by a Mac, instead. What made Windows Phone suck was the fact that any other Phone was just as good at accessing Microsoft services, by necessity of their business model, but it sucked at a lot of things those platforms could do as a result of the app/feature gap. These was a huge rift in awesomeness when comparing iMac + iPhone to Win10 PC + Windows Phone. It isn't even close. Apple's solution feels like magic. Microsoft's feels a decade old. Everything is build in and requires very little setup. The devices just pop up dialogs and walk you through it, and it's just working 2 minutes later.
In other words, look for the bad and you'll find the bad, and vice versa.
Try this exercise.
Type "aple" then hit space. How do you correct the word?
1. move your cursor from the other side of the screen and click on "aple" then move to the top of the menu and click on the fix?
2. hit left key, hit menu key, hit enter. Can you go kb-only with OS, popup dialogs, UI, Settings, File Explorer, context menu? Except graphical applications like Adobe, Unreal, 3dsMax, can you go kb-only with applications like Office, VisualStudio, Notepad++, Chome, Edge?
Apple grants their user resize-window-from-any-corner in 2012... I've never used a Windows older than 95 but I'm sure think this is in Win95...
And if you really try to go kb-only (cause it's more efficient) with Mac, you'd find many UI/UX inconsistency between applications. Mac is kb-user-unfriendly and Apple's putting effort in Mac no more, they are focusing on iOS. Same thing goes to iOS vs Android. iOS is simple but not power-user-friendly. It requires more steps to complete the same task. btw, MS's focusing on putting Windows in every possible machines. UWP runs on PC (including S-mode, ARM), AR, MR, IOT and Xbox, and we can using AI & Azure as the back bone to connect'em.
Free tools e.g. VisualStudio, free subversion, project management tools, ticket system, etc for small team.
We can now push UWP to a security camera or traffic lights and connect'em using MS's AI & Azure and monitor'em.
We can continue xbox game session using our NBs (and possibly on the rumored Surface Dual Screen once ARM64 is available).
AAA games use Havok. We are also using MS tech to code for Switch games.
Not only for console games but also for mobile games, they are also investing in game server business. Streaming service and e-sports business is another focus.
e.g. Streamer get a cut when someone buys something from the MsStore during the streaming. As a developer, we can now open our game API to Mixer for interactions.
A solid Movie Maker app.
A People bar with proper working Skype integration that doesn't mutilate contacts.
The People app itself got stripped of useful features.
Cortana/Microsoft To-Do integration.
Cortana smart home support (yeah we got some now...finally. Still a lot more to go).
Microsoft Wallet. (Seriously, what does it do?)
SMS. (We had pretty cool SMS integration. Then it got nerfed and removed)
A legit integrated/usable Password Manager. (Have you tried searching the Credentials panel?)
A reasonably priced entry-level smart home speaker for Cortana. That's just off the top of my head. Given time, I could go on.
Be nice while on the drive home to tell Cortana - "send my most recent file to"+insertnamehere
Because I seem to remember something like that.
Windows has always been users first, I don't know how the 'consumers' vs. 'enterprise' narrative came into play. If anything, it is a 'consumer' OS.
Sometimes, I think that in the absence of real issues, people just like to complain to spend the time. Then there is also the disturbing trend of people parroting opinions with hardly any independent thought or investigation (although this is not peculiar to Windows). It's probably safe to say that over half the 'opinions' on the web today were never reached based on independent investigations, it's just parroting the 'popular' or maybe supposedly 'cool' or 'trending' opinion, which is why they cannot answer any specific questions with substance since there was never any direct first-hand experience, like that which you asked on Twitter.
Windows 10 as a PC OS is truly the most advanced on the planet today, whether anyone wants to agree to it or not. The sheer versatility, stability (yep stability) and performance is impressive. Yes, it's not 'perfect', but where would you even find perfect anyways?? And I say this using devices running some version of pretty much all the mainstream operating systems.
So, MS struggled with some consumer products and failed to gain meaningful traction (not for lack of making solid attempts - Zune, Band, Groove pass and WP/WM). If you evaluate these products on their own merit, they were/are pretty damn impressive, which anyone would be proud to say he/she was a part of the dev team (I still use my Zunes till today, and back on my Lumia 950XL after my Android experiments left me miserable...). However, they were either late to market, or had extremely successful competition, against which a prolonged struggle was futile (you can ask Apple's macOS team why they decided to implement boot camp for Windows). This can and does happen to any (arguably every) company.
Maybe Windows is just taken for granted these days because it is everywhere; from crappy el-cheapo devices to expensive ultrabooks and gaming machines so it's real worth is not truly appreciated :-(.
What app or application is smartphone-only? Facebook, Netflix, news and email? Current gen smart devices for retired people is not hard to understand but if you in the work field, Windows is still essential to a lotta business (and gamers). Windows in machines (camera, traffic light, water meter, robot) wasn't possible till now.
You can work things out faster than a smart device on a Windows and you can have your digital purchase running on differing platforms. Programmer can deploy their code across PC, S-mode, Arm, AR, MR, IOT and Xbox. You can def share lib/code between server and client side with c#. Things are different, are changing now.
(meant without gender)
With these WoA devices... I'm actually thinking... it's be useful as a light weight long lasting pocket WiFi... Windows now runs on ARM and what ARM's good for? small devices (some OEMs will def try). Rumor also says MS's creating a smaller dual screen device. Not phone tho, these are PC with telephony capability. And they are capable of doing/running XPA gaming, light Photoshop, Visual Studio for programming and OneDrive on Demand.
- Use the browsers I want to use
- Play the games I want to play
- Have an easy to use File Explorer to explore all my documents and photos (not a fan of Mac's Finder)
- Install probably the widest variety of software available on any OS As say a corporate business person or manager, I would also appreciate Windows for the same things. Being able to install whatever software I need, have an easy way to visualize and explore what's on my computer, etc. However, as a web developer, I choose Mac. It is more cumbersome to navigate than Windows in my opinion, but it is built on Unix, which means I have an excellent command line out of the box. It's easy to manage development packages and software. The file system translates better to production deployments in my opinion. And, it has a ton of popularity among web developers, so I have a lot of resources at my disposal. So, bottom line: I think Windows hits the mark for consumers and general business professionals, but I think it's losing out on developers to Mac and Linux from what I see in workplaces.
My point is that built-in apps are part of the OS and Microsoft should / must invest in these too, providing only basic features is not enough, they must provide a fully functional ecosystem on top of it.
Wow, this is so absolutely not true.
Everything is going to be cloud based tomorrow.
I have used Windows since Windows 95, and my all time favorite OS was Windows NT.
Because it was incredibly powerful at the time with plenty of settings making my life easier. I used it at work, I used it at home.
I never felt that I needed a built in photo editor, I had Corell for that and later Adobe.
Didn't expect to have a music streaming service either, although I loves Groove, but that's just not something I expected an OS to do.
I think what happened over time was that competitive OS had to cram Applications into their OS to become relevant, and now people judge an OS based on how many add on features it has.
I love windows 10. Have been using it since the first preview.
Make it more stable, productive for core functions and customizable.
Make the UI look good and make it adapt to different devices and let me install whatever applications fits my needs best in its category.
That's what I expect Windows to be.
An OS that runs stable on every device I run it on, every time.
Maybe I am just really old, but that's my take.
The concept of intelligent cloud and edge was coined by Nadella. I think it is very powerful and the recent reorg is in line with it. "Devices and Services" still fits, as well as "Cloud first, Mobile first" and "Dual use: business and personal". It connects and adds up.
Sure, there is a lot to be wished for: persistent virtual desktops, equirectangular photo support to name my few.