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Microsoft should focus on fun, not functionality, to remain relevant in a cross-screen era

Microsoft is rebooting its entire offering to both businesses and consumers with today’s launch of Windows 10, but it should emphasise how it can make users’ lives more enjoyable, as well as productive, if it is to resonate with users.

The software giant today (29 July) made available a series of updates to its offering with Windows 10, in what amounts to a complete overhaul to its operating system, with a focus on a cross platform usability. This update includes: an entirely new web browser - Windows Edge - as well a voice control feature Cortana, among others.

Windows 10 is essentially Microsoft updating itself for a cross-screen world, having conquered the desktop space, briefly succeeded in the console gaming arena, but ultimately failing in mobile (taking into account its calamitous purchase of handset manufacturer Nokia).

However, it is the latter category that is key to success in an era when people’s lives are essentially played out across a number of screens, which suggests that Windows 10 is arguably Microsoft’s last throw of the dice.

Speaking at the Windows 10 launch event Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella highlighted how there are there are 1.5 billion Windows users - that makes it bigger than Facebook in terms of the sheer number of end users.

Nadella’s launch address emphasised cross-device experiences, with the company looking to expand every aspect of its offering to end users (both corporate and consumer) across devices, from the corporate display screen and desktop, to users’ pocket-held devices, all the way to the games console at home.

To achieve this, Microsoft has come up with the “Universal application” idea, proof (if ever it was needed) that Microsoft realises that it needs to expand its dominance of the desktop OS market to the host of other screens that dominate users’ lives.

But it’s here where Microsoft has lost out to rival OS players; Apple with its mobile-centric iOS, and Google, which ultimately controls the open source Android ecosystem. The key advantage these two have enjoyed over Microsoft has been, that they are less unencumbered by their desktop legacy.

Indeed, Microsoft seems to have been shackled by its desktop dominance, instead of using it as a key advantage over other players, when it came to computing (and consumers’ digital lives) going mobile.

Hence, Microsoft became associated with business, while the others with fun and convenience, now Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up if it is to reposition itself as a brand.

Notably, in yesterday’s address, Nadella said: “We want to move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows, that’s our bold goal…”

But Microsoft’s continual emphasis on how Windows 10 can aid productivity – a message it underlined recently when asked if it was pulling out of the advertising game by The Drum – is likely to detract from this goal of being “loved”.

Instead, Microsoft should highlight its other offerings – such as its virtual reality feature HoloLens - which were also put on display yesterday, in addition to its credentials in the gaming market where Xbox is still a force to be reckoned with, despite competition from other players such as Sony’s PlayStation.

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