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Technically Speaking | Microsoft strives to stay ahead

Among the various announcements that Microsoft made Jan. 21 was the official announcement of the much-anticipated Windows 10. The biggest news was that it will be a free update for all current Windows users. This means that if you are running Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 you can download the new version of Windows at no charge.

While this may seem like more like a nicety than a profundity in the future of computing, this actually represents a major shift in the way the business of computers will be heading, at least in the immediate future. Microsoft used to make a majority of its money from the retail sales of its operating system. In recent years however, the amount of revenue it had been making declined, as many struggled to update their computers at increasingly faster release cycles.

During this time, Apple began releasing its updates at little or no charge and allowing users to download these updates directly from its app store, eliminating the need to travel to a store to purchase it. Simply put, the sales paradigm has changed.

And as it would seem, Apple, not Microsoft, is leading the charge in this new direction. So then how is this not just Microsoft playing another round of “catch-up” to its trendier opponent?

It’s simple. The second, and arguably much more significant announcement that Microsoft made, is that starting with Windows 10, a program written for any Microsoft device can run on any other Microsoft device.

This means if a developer writes a video player application for Windows 10, it will not have to be completely rewritten for it to run on Windows Phone or even the Xbox. This saves developers serious time and allows Microsoft to catch up in the mobile arena (Windows Phone sales historically trail Android and the iPhone by a long shot).

More importantly, this ends the notion that Microsoft is an operating system and begins a new era with Windows as a platform that spans across all media. This means that the actual specifications of your hardware will largely not matter. It follows then that the very idea of purchasing a new computer will not be a choice of the fastest hardware, but rather which platform you want to go with.

Apple has yet to reach this point in its software. There are still many loose ends it needs to tie up to stay competitive with Microsoft in this respect.

Finally, Microsoft stands to make a large amount of money from this unified approach. For every app that is purchased on any of Microsoft’s app stores, Microsoft receives a 30 percent cut of that sale. The new ease of development that Microsoft has provided, along with the large amount of room these stores have for growth and the strong unified emphasis on using these official channels for development creates the perfect storm of revenue.

That’s not to say this isn’t a big risk for Microsoft. It has eliminated a big source of revenue for its company and is betting big on new technologies that have yet to be fully proven in the tech realm.

If this works, however, then the way consumers think about computers may very well change to something largely unrecognizable from the world that we
inhabit today.


Charles Burnett is a junior political science major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected].