Apps - Can the Windows 10 stone aim for the third bird?

In an attempt to make the room more cozy for cross-device cuddling and any-platform pillows, Microsoft is also trying to serenade the ever-fastidious developer community. Interesting

Pratima Harigunani
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Pratima H


INDIA: Yeah, we know it. The world of apps here should have long gone universal. Multiple devices, schizophrenic tendencies to switch between PCs and phones, lines long blurred between handhelds and the office shebang, lines getting all the more fuzzy around native apps, hybrid apps and web-DNA apps – it should have happened long before.

But Microsoft seems to have finally gotten its intent and act together. This time it is mincing no words and no fineprint meat in opening the curtains for universal apps, thus accelerating a universe where developers can build apps for both Windows Phone devices and Windows 8 tablets, and do its bit (with single run time, better APIs etc) in unifying mobile experience across devices, and platforms.

This may help it further its all-encompassing app dream and as a good by-product may also reel in a lot of those developers it has been perspiring to woo for last few years. But then, when the massive Apple and Android footprint stares teasingly and when Microsoft’s plans of writing off billions from its acquisition of Nokia last year as well as wiping hundreds of jobs in this mobile-business re-jig, the industry is tempted to wonder – Would Windows 10 matter for apps?


App War, Mobile Game, BYOD joystick

In the diagnosis of John Feland, CEO, Argus Insights, though Windows handsets are delighting a small share of the market, the release of Windows 10 is unlikely to have any significant impact on Android or iOS demand.

He slices the landscape deftly and shows that while Windows 10 continues the consolidation of experiences across phones, tablets and personal computers, this high level of integration still only appeals to a narrow slice of the consumer market.


“More interesting is the release of Office applications on Android and iOS as a way to bring consumers back to Windows on personal computers to get real work done.”

In a way, his sponge mirrors what a very app-hands-on Aniruddha Dange, Chief Strategy Officer, IndiaInfoLine group (IIFL) has been observing. They have been fiddling with different levels and improvements of their app and have felt Android dominating 70 per cent of the stage with iOs trailing at 10 to 15 per cent and Windows too at 10 per cent so far.

Even as he stands flummoxed at the way Nokia acquisition has panned out at Microsoft, the word ‘seamless’ keeps him hopeful. “In today’s scenario, fluidity of devices is an important user expectation when it comes to apps. They have a lot of resources and even if we are not going for mobile platforms, we cannot write off Windows, especially if it really brings in a seamless experience.”


Timing is something that many other experts from the industry acknowledge well for Microsoft.

Windows 10 comes at a particularly propitious time for Microsoft, feels David Lavenda, VP Product Strategy, but he does not strike off the Nokia question hovering around.

“While the promise of the universal Windows operating system for all devices has effectively been abandoned by Microsoft’s recent denigration of its Nokia division, it’s not gone completely. Many organizations I speak with are considering moving to a single computing device – a combo PC / tablet. And here is where Microsoft has an enormous market opportunity with Windows 10. While many organizations were recently considering how to integrate iPads into their work environment, the promise of a smooth PC/tablet experience in one device with Windows 10 is changing their perspective and with it the potential to displace Apple tablets in the workplace.”

With the recent announcements about Nokia, it doesn’t seem like Windows Phone is trying to fight back the onslaught of iOS or Android phones. That seems to be a lost battle, Lavenda quips.


He adds that however, displacing iPads in the office seems a real possibility if Windows 2-in-1 devices can provide a truly consistent and robust user experience. "Still up for grabs is how the Universal App version of Office will be adopted when used in concert with the desktop versions and if MS can provide a good experience that is appropriate for each platform." If it can, then as per this technology strategist with ears close to the ground on mobile enterprise, there is a real chance that Microsoft can recapture the tablet market for business.

What’s worth zooming on is where Microsoft has a reasonable play for co-opting Mac and smartphone users into Office 365, where the real vendor lock-in will occur. Because once users are in the Office 365 cloud, they will be hooked. And that’s where the real future for business lies.

The on-going battles in the big war with Apple or Android cease to be guerilla warfare anymore.


As Ravindra Rao– COO of Fullerton India, says it matter-of-factly, it is a known fact that Microsoft is competing with Apple and Google. “They are also speaking about free upgrades for 1 year to Windows 10 for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users. They seem to have borrowed this leaf from their competitors. With a change in leadership globally, they are trying to be customer-centric and address the business needs rather than focusing on how to increase their revenues by adopting to some arm-twisting tactics.”

He cites the added feature wherein corporate apps, data, email, web content and other sensitive information will be automatically encrypted by Windows-10 both on desktops and mobile devices.

Consumerisation of technology and fast-changing loyalties of users can be just those cards that will challenge this poker-faced table that the three big boys have been enjoying so far.


Would the universal stroke work?

So we know that BYOD has added a new twist to the game and now you just never know what cards an Apple or Android may have up their sleeves.


But this is effectively Microsoft’s chance to regain the ‘desktop’ of the Digital Workplace, Lavenda points out arguing that Windows 10 is MS’s chance to remain essential to users during the phase when they move to the cloud, where services can be retrieved by iOS and Android mobile apps, without the need for Windows, and until Office 365 will pick up the slack in OS revenue as the OS becomes less important over time.

That’s how the Universal Windows Apps offers great potential for business users and organizations, almost all of whom are moving to the cloud to one degree or another. The ability to provide an appropriate and consistent user experience across many devices, Windows and otherwise, can greatly drive adoption of new cloud services.

“We know that the biggest impediment to getting people to use new technology is changing user behavior, so the potential for a consistent user experience across multiple platforms presents new opportunities to enterprising cloud service providers. And while people will get an increasing amount of information from smartphones, they will still use desktops, laptops, and tablets for more applications that require more real estate or user input.” Lavenda distills.

The challenge from Chromebooks cannot be shrugged here. Rao ascertains that these low-cost laptops with Google’s Chrome OS are gaining strength especially with the students and will increase their appeal as more people move to web-based computing.

As Girish Gupta, Director, Technical Services, Citrix Systems is proud of Citrix being a robust platform for delivering apps, he particularly notices that Windows 10 allows doing this seamlessly across a variety of end points, without any cumbersome phases or patches. “Microsoft’s move now is well-timed and they are getting in the door with Office 365 platform and tapping the right model. Windows 10 lets you use what you want and for the time they want.”

Of course, Gupta does not count out the big battle with Android and Apple that might be waiting to be tackled for Microsoft.

Turn to Rao and he brings the game back to the user stressing that Windows-10 needs to be a cross platform, well-organized and has to live up to its users.

He is affirmative that Windows 10 will help MS. “It is a new approach where the same OS is capable of installing on various devices. Windows 10, the way it appears, will pose a threat to Android. MS pricing structure is also competitive. But I don’t think it is fair to compare Windows-10 with Mac OS XI. Microsoft has more controlled the desktop OS environment and Apple has controlled the mobile markets. But Microsoft is packaging Windows-10 and if this succeeds, this will give Apple a run for its money. Having said this, through healthy competition, users will have a better experience and a wider range of products to choose from. It needs to be a superior 7 and deliver great experience to the end users.”

Developers or Users, Tablets or Mobiles, if an universal app approach can chase that elusive bird called ‘A Wow Experience’, bring it on.

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