Windows 10: A New Wave of Software as a Service

No matter how you feel about Microsoft and their latest offerings, Windows 10 represents the beginning of a new paradigm in Operating System utilization and delivery for the business world. To cling to older operating systems, resisting the new, would be akin to watching VHS tapes while the rest of the world is streaming Netflix. Of course there are pros and cons, but change is always going to win in the end.

The most important thing to understand is that Windows 10 signals the end of an OS being an asset that you buy and own, and introduces the age of Software as a Service. This is a concept that’s been rapidly gaining traction as cloud services take over and we rent access to vast databases of content rather than buying rights to single pieces (think Spotify vs CDs, or Netflix vs DVDs). This is why Windows 10 is now “free” as an upgrade. Rather than a model of separate versions of Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8) we will now see an age of continual updates and refinements on the same core technology (Windows 10, 10.1, 10.2, etc.). Along with this, we will see ongoing support (no more “I’m sorry we no longer support Windows XP”) as well as cross platform uniformity (your watch, phone, tablet, and PC can all synchronize and use the same OS if you’re running all Microsoft devices). (An important aside: Microsoft is the first of the major OS providers, Google and Apple being the others, to combine their work environment with their mobile app environment. This has potentially huge implications for work environments, so we’ll be addressing this in a future blog.)

From a usability standpoint, with Windows 10, Microsoft learned lessons from its earlier blunders. It’s relatively fast on a variety of hardware, and, visually, it’s fresh and pleasurable to use. In many ways it merges the simplicity and usability of Apple products with the utility and functionality of traditional Windows deployments. Along with this, there are security refinements on an already quite securable platform, making you less susceptible to a variety of threats and more aware of threats as they enter your computing world (read those error messages!)

Another decent refinement in this version of Windows is the further integration of OneDrive and Microsoft accounts. Windows natively bases your profile and files out of their cloud so that, no matter what device you log onto, your files and preferences, wallpaper, and digital life are all right there. This means that your device is not the center of your digital world, but rather your digital world is the center of all your devices. Laptop breaks on a trip? No problem! Just pick up a new windows machine, connect it to the internet, and you’ll be up and running in no time (depending on the software you need).

There have been some privacy concerns with this version of Windows, especially with Cortana (the Windows assistant, akin to Apple’s Siri). Because Cortana is packaging and delivering all of your queries back to Microsoft, there is a fear that all of that data is no longer private. And this is, in many ways, true. Even when Cortana is turned off, there is information being exchanged between Microsoft and your computer, which concerns some folks. Really this is just part of progress though. As our digital lives center around our data – and not the devices we experience it through – information will end up exchanged. While privacy is a concern here, it also leverages access to much more powerful servers and computing abilities, meaning you can carry around much lighter, leaner devices that get amazing battery life and cost a fraction of previous computing devices. Pretending that our data won’t end up out in the open world is unrealistic. Rather than fight this natural progression by pretending that it’s not happening, Microsoft’s embracing of this new way of life shows that the IT industry will now start to refine and perfect ways of securing this new model. We can’t close our digital borders while being constantly connected to the entire world via the Internet.

It remains to be seen how this latest foray into new ground goes for Microsoft, but like it or not, they are still the big dog in the enterprise market space. Regardless of whether you like the idea of your data being somewhere other than with you, it’s going to happen. It’s simply not realistic, anymore, to carry around our entire digital lives with us. We’re a mobile culture and we demand mobile devices that are just as capable as the large, hot, powerful computers we keep on our desks. To do this and to make sure that any device you log onto is “home” when you log onto it, your data is going to inevitably end up centralized and your computing platform is going to become service based. Just as the cloud came on the scene and changed the way we look at our data and digital services, Software as a Service is going to change the way we look at our devices and our digital lives.