Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
With the relatively beloved, somewhat maligned, Windows XP fading into the night, there may be up to 30% of the market looking at operating systems other than Windows. That’s how many devices are still running Windows XP, according to NetMarketShare.
With no longer supporting XP, Microsoft may free up the time and resources to face the challenges ahead. Let’s hope they take this opportunity to reflect on past successes and mistakes, get to know their customers again, and put together a new Windows from top to bottom – a Windows that works, a Windows that is lean, and a Windows that is open. That’s how Microsoft can win its users back, and probably a few that were loyal to other operating systems to begin with.
Make Windows Work
Why do people choose Apple or Chrome over Windows? Many would have us believe that it’s because of the user interface, slick marketing, cool factor, price, or some sort of inherent capability of those operating systems. Is it really any of those?
Microsoft’s interface has been the standard for many years. What they spend on marketing in one year is more than most of us will ever earn in a lifetime. Microsoft IS cool in that it’s got the majority of the market and it is capable of doing pretty much anything you’d want a computer to do. And finally, a Microsoft laptop can be had for just a few hundred dollars. So those aren’t the reasons. Perhaps, just maybe, the reason is that the Mac and Chrome OSes simply work.
If you know someone with a Mac or Chromebook, can you recall the last time they asked you about a blue screen or strange error message? Can you recall the last time they said that they had to wait for hours for updates to be done on their computer? Probably not. That’s what is meant by simply working. If one holds their tongue in the right corner of their mouth, while simultaneously pressing control and 7, then clicking on a link with 3 words in it, they shouldn’t be able to crash the system. It should just work.
As an example, the Chromebook lets you know there is an update with a simple little icon in the system tray. If you click on it, the Chromebook restarts in about 30 seconds and you’re right back doing whatever you were doing. It is the least intrusive updating method available. By comparison, you are well aware of how much time Windows can spend updating – hours even. Then the Windows Updates can create other problems.
Microsoft, if you make Windows simply work – don’t just mask or hide problems – but really make it work, you’ll get your customers back. Be the best. You’ve got hundreds of the brightest people in the world as your employees, and access to thousands more that gladly volunteer to pitch in. You have all the resources you need to make this happen fast.
Make Windows Lean
Lean is a big buzz word in the business world as well as the general public. Simplicity, uncluttering, streamlining…all words that are cropping up more and more. Why not lean out Windows? Currently an install of Windows 8.1 needs either 16GB or 20GB of drive space. The former for 32-bit machines, the latter for 64-bit machines. An install of Mac OS X is about 7 GB, and ChromeOS is less than 4 GB.
Thin out the the operating system so it addresses the most common, basic needs of the people. Don’t sell them a house with hidden rooms and toys in the attic, when they just want something they can use for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. If one wants additional functionality, why not make it something that can be easily added after the fact?
Follow the lead of ChromeOS, Mac OS X, even Linux. One buys the device, it does what it says on the tin, and if one wants to do more they drop a couple bucks and add it on. This is very doable and should make one’s life easier by having a simple working core OS that will be easier to maintain and improve. Just imagine if Microsoft didn’t have to worry about developing solutions for problems it created, trying to push out updates and patches, and being in a perpetual state of damage control.
Part of making it lean on top of getting rid of seldom used (or even known about) applications is to add those applications that people download almost immediately after installing Windows. Fences by Stardock, CCleaner by Piriform for example. Suggesting a more robust antivirus might be a good idea, however by writing Windows from scratch again, there should be a lot less opportunities for vulnerabilities, along the lines of ChromeOS and Mac OSes.
Add to that the fact that Windows would run quicker and take up less space, people will take Windows seriously again. Now one can have cloud-oriented computers running Windows at a cost closer or better than a Chromebook. Imagine what that would do for Microsoft’s Skydrive cloud storage services as well!
Make Windows Open
Microsoft is embracing Open Source just like a kid embraces his great aunt with the huge hairy mole – just because he has to, not because he wants to. Open Source Software is not a repulsive thing. Nor does it mean having to give away the milk AND the cow.
There are two huge gains to be made by open sourcing your operating system – one is bolstering the trust that people have in you, the other is creating a huge marketplace for innovation of which you can be the landlord. That position is a very monetizeable one, with less effort and cost than trying to develop and hawk all your own wares. Just ask the iTunes store.
You know this can work Microsoft. You’ve seen it in some of your smaller divisions such as the open source prototyping platform, Gadgeteer. Sure, that might be a smaller market share than Arduino or Raspberry Pi, but just imagine if you took your Windows market share and added back in all those that left you out of frustration and distrust. You’d probably be able to also add most of the Asian market back in due to the desire of China to have access to the source of Windows. What business wouldn’t want to add a few billion users overnight?
Microsoft Windows insinuated itself into businesses and schools decades ago and it was a revolutionary operating system. It opened computing to the masses perhaps more than any other innovation ever. Anyone who uses a computer can usually use Windows to some degree. However, being the juggernaut just isn’t enough anymore. If anything, it has become detrimental in a world where people want light and fast as they take computing with them into every facet of their life. Adapt or fail Microsoft.
There are many niggling little points that we could debate about how to make Windows the most loved OS again, however these three points are at the crux of it all: make it work, make it lean, make it open. Do that again Microsoft and we may start returning your calls again.
Image Credits: People running Via Shutterstock, Microsoft Open Technologies Shanghai via Microsoft, Globe via Pixabay, Windows Error Message and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella via Flickr, BSoD_in_Windows_8, Open Source Logo, Windows Logo with Wordmark, Windows Logo, Apple Logo and Chromium Logo via Wikimedia.