Can Windows 10 Save Windows Phone and Tablets?

Microsoft Windows 10

Can Windows 10 succeed where Windows 8 failed?

Windows 8 was Microsoft’s attempt to build an operating system for both desktop and mobile users. In contrast to previous versions of Windows, which focused solely on the desktop interface, Windows 8 featured a “Start screen” composed of colorful tiles linked to applications; only by clicking or tapping on one of those tiles could the user reach the desktop. In theory, the Start screen would make Windows 8 usable on tablets and touch-screens, while the desktop remained for those users who wanted the traditional environment.

Microsoft’s confidence in its bifurcated OS was misplaced. Longtime Windows users didn’t seem excited about the Start screen, and those in the market for a new tablet didn’t rush out to buy one loaded with Windows 8. Within a year of its release, Windows 8 still struggled to overtake Windows 7 and Windows XP, its increasingly ancient predecessors. Microsoft executives knew they needed to do something big with the next version of Windows in order to reclaim some momentum.

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On a superficial level, Windows 10 is a retreat to the past: The desktop is once again front and center. But the operating system also attempts to predict the future of computing, one in which OS functionality isn’t restricted to a single device, thanks to cross-platform apps. In theory, third-party developers will have the ability to take apps developed for Windows 10—of which there will be many, presumably—and “shrink” them down to operate on the upcoming version of Windows Phone.

At least on paper, this seems like the ideal strategy for jump-starting the market share for Windows Phone, which has remained largely stagnant since its launch three years ago.

Will developers take advantage of that cross-platform compatibility? Considering Windows Phone’s miserable market share (roughly 3 percent), and most small developers’ premium on time and resources, that seems like a bit of a hard sell. If larger developers such as Facebook and Google showed more interest in Windows Phone as a platform, that could begin to change the paradigm; but as it stands, it seems likely that, at least for the time being, most developers will continue to pour their efforts into iOS and Android, the only two mobile platforms with significant market presence.

Thanks to a feature known as Continuum, Windows 10 will also operate more seamlessly on tablets and two-in-ones than its predecessors—but again, it will prove an uphill battle for Windows to gain market share against Android tablets and the iPad, both of which are well-entrenched.

By making Windows 10 a (temporarily) free upgrade for those running Windows 7 and 8, Microsoft could ensure its new OS rapidly overtakes its predecessors. But increasing the market-share for Windows Phone is another matter entirely.

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