A Microsoft anunciou, em evento para imprensa em Seattle, a nova versão de seu sistema operacional. Joe Belfiore – vice-presidente da Microsoft – conta e demonstra as principais mudanças presentes no Windows 10.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella set what he called a “bold goal” at the Windows 10 launch event Wednesday: “We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows.”
Needing Windows? Certainly, with an installed base of 1.5 billion users, more than a few of us fall into this category. The decision to make you a Windows user can often be traced back to a corporate IT department a decade or more ago. Choosing Windows? Not when it comes to the more personal decision of which smartphone to carry in our pockets, we don’t. Sure, why not aim for that.
But loving Windows? That seemed so bizarre to reporters at the event that Nadella had to fend off questions afterwards about whether he could really see a Windows Phone attracting the same adoration from users as its Apple-made rival.
What was especially odd was Nadella made this statement immediately after unveiling a product that quite simply blew Windows 10 out of the water: The HoloLens virtual reality glasses, which at a stroke appeared to vault Microsoft ahead of Google and Facebook in the race to dominate VR, widely recognized as the next frontier of tech beyond mobile and the cloud.
I suppose you could call the HoloLens system a form of Windows we could love. But it seems odd, and potentially damaging, to hitch this wagon to the old Windows workhorse. Keep the two at a distance, and Microsoft might just have found that strange, indefinable something that has eluded it (and clung to Apple) for lo these many decades: cool.
Microsoft has never been particularly beloved, nor has it seemed to care until now. Bill Gates gained his vice-like grip on the software market in the 1980s by being savvy about partnerships with IBM and other computer makers, rather than having the better product. The Redmond, Washington-based company had a brief moment as a media darling around the Windows 95 launch — but it also spent much of the 1990s as the schoolyard bully of tech companies, strong-arming competitors, repeatedly earning the ire of the Justice Department and painfully dragging its heels through the U.S. legal system until it was officially declared a monopoly.
The 2000s saw a kinder, gentler Microsoft — but also a slower-moving, more irrelevant one.
The 2000s saw a kinder, gentler Microsoft — but also a slower-moving, more irrelevant one. CEO Steve Ballmer seemed to spend much of the decade scoffing at companies (Google) and products (the iPhone) that he belatedly tried to emulate (with Bing and Windows Phone, respectively). Hardware hits were outnumbered by duds. For every well-received Xbox, there was more than one ill-conceived Zune.
Microsoft, it seemed, had become the perennial fast follower, stuck in a purgatory of safe, boring, me-too products that came out years after the original. With a customer base that large, the company would never die; it would also never dominate. When it tried to be cool — witness the tablet-style “live tiles” screen shoehorned into every edition of Windows 8 at the expense of the Start button — its reward was outrage from confused users.
And now here comes Microsoft CEO number three, Satya Nadella, an entirely different kind of leader, eager to change the name of the game. As with people, deep down, tech companies just want to be loved. And also as with people, this quest for affection can either be inspirational, or destructive, or possibly both.
In this case, trying to focus on making us love Windows seems to ignore a key business lesson Microsoft should learn from its Seattle neighbor, Amazon. As detailed in Brad Stone’s excellent book The Everything Store, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wrote a memo a few years back titled “Amazon.love,” in which he set the company to thinking about how the company could capture the elusive notion of cool. Sample: “explorers are cool. Conquerors are not cool.”
Bezos had apparently become obsessed by companies like Apple, Nike and Disney — brands that customers felt passionately about, even loved, brands for which people pay a premium. He wanted Amazon, a perfectly serviceable online retailer that most users like, to move into the category of love. And that may have been the catalyst for the greatest debacle of Amazon’s recent history, the Fire Phone.
As detailed in this Fast Company article, Bezos pushed his product team into creating Dynamic Perspective — the technology that made the Fire Phone screen look like it was glasses-free 3D. Dynamic Perspective required four cameras at the corners of the phone, driving its cost up massively. Even its engineers thought the feature had no value for users. Amazon’s recent $170 million write-down is largely attributed to unsold Fire Phones.
Whether the HoloLens becomes Microsoft’s Fire Phone or its iPhone comes down to the decisions Microsoft makes in the months leading up to its launch, which the company suggests could come around the same time as Windows 10. Will it be a flashy afterthought of a product to get users interested in the potential of Windows 10 more than anything else? That sounds like a botched conquest of virtual reality, and conquerers, as we know, are not cool.
Or will HoloLens be allowed to grow into its own thing, a nimble-footed explorer, a next-generation product not tied to Windows in much the same way the iPhone did not require you to own a Mac? Will it launch when it’s ready, rather than on the Window 10 timetable — and will Microsoft manage to bring developers along for the ride this time?
The answer depends on Nadella — and whether his need to make us love a workaday upgrade to the legacy operating system of yesterday is more important than the cool breeze of the future.