San Francisco: Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced its 'Windows 10' Operating System to replace the largely unpopular Windows 8, skipping a number to mark a leap toward unifying the way people work on tablets, phones and traditional computers.
The current version, Windows 8, has been widely derided for forcing radical behavioral changes. Microsoft is restoring some of the more traditional ways of doing things and promises that Windows 10 will be familiar for users regardless of which version of Windows they are now using.
For instance, the start menu in Windows 10 will appear similar to what’s found in Windows 7, but tiles opening to the side will resemble what’s found in Windows 8.
The new software represents an attempt to step back from the radical redesign that alienated many PC users when Windows 8 was introduced two years ago. But it’s not a complete retreat from Microsoft’s goal of bridging the gap between PCs and mobile devices: It still has touchscreen functions and strives to create a familiar experience for Windows users who switch between desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.
“Windows 10 will be our greatest enterprise platform ever,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft's Head of Operating Systems, at an event in San Francisco.
He said Windows 10, long known by the project name 'Threshold' internally, represented a new type of system for the company, as it seeks to unify computing as mobile devices proliferate.
"Windows 10 adapts to the devices customers are using, from Xbox to PCs and phones to tablets and tiny gadgets," said Myerson.
Only 20 per cent of organisations migrated to Windows 8, which was released two years ago, according to technology research firm Forrester. Many PC users disliked the touch-optimized interface and bemoaned the loss of the traditional start-button pop-up menu.
From a virtual monopoly on personal computing 10 years ago, Windows now runs only about 14 percent of devices, according to research firm Gartner.
"It's a bold statement for Microsoft to make," said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. "So far there's not as much meat on the bone as we would have wanted, although it's still very early days."
An early version of the software, demonstrated on stage by Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore, showed two modes, one optimized for touch-controlled tablets, and one for PCs using a mouse and keyboard. Users can switch between the two depending on the device.
Myerson did not say exactly how or when the new Windows would be rolled out, but other executives said Microsoft was aiming for a full release by mid-2015. A technical preview can be downloaded from Microsoft's website, starting on Wednesday, for users to try out and give the company feedback.
"They were trying to start the messaging for a product that won't actually ship until sometime around the middle of next year," said Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans at the event.