How Microsoft Is Moving Beyond Windows

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SEATTLE — For over 30 years, Microsoft has been synonymous with Windows. And while it clearly has no plans to do away with its operating system, I can’t shake the feeling here at the company’s Build developer conference that it’s not the equivalency it wants.

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While not newly announced this year, the company pushed a different solution called Microsoft 365. It’s a combination of Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility and Security.

This doesn’t come as a complete surprise. After all the company just reorganized, focusing on two teams: one for experiences and devices and another for cloud and AI platforms. Windows sort of falls in both of those. That reorganization also resulted in Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and devices group, announcing that he will be leaving the company.

At Build, we started to learn what that means. While there’s no doubt Windows 10 will continue to ship on laptops and desktops for years and years to come, Microsoft as a company is shifting its attention to a bigger picture.

Namely, Microsoft isn’t really in the consumer game. Sure, there’s Xbox, the company's most popular play, as well as its own Surface lineup. And while its trying to get some experiences on iOS and Android, its out of smartphones. Windows will continue to evolve, but it’s aimed at work more than anything else.

Microsoft is pushing an audience of developers to build for Microsoft 365, which has three links on its website: “for business,” “for enterprise,” and “for education.” No where is consumer mentioned.

It makes sense. Mobile is the future, and Microsoft lost there, and CEO Satya Nadella adjusted the strategy. At Build, Microsoft was still the Windows company. But it’s also the AI company, the database company and the company that creates mixed-reality tools for frontline workers. Want to create something for the layperson? You should have gone to Google I/O.

Again, Windows isn’t going away. Not only are we seeing some new updates, like Sets, but it’s a huge part of enterprise, and yes, consumer devices made by both Microsoft and its hardware partners like Dell, HP and Lenovo. But the future of Microsoft is clearly in apps and experiences to change the way people work, and not just on PCs.

But that means that it may be in ways that you don’t see in your home. Or that you don’t see in your office. If the future of personal computing is on your phone, Microsoft hopes Windows at least, is where you’ll work. And if it can tie those two together, at least you’ll use its services on other company’s devices. On the side most users will never see, it’s pushing developers to work on Azure, its cloud computing platform.

On stage, corporate vice president of Windows Joe Belfiore said that he hoped developers who came in saying they develop for Windows will leave saying they develop for Microsoft 365, tying Windows in with Office and the Enterprise.

But Windows? It’s not the sole focus of the company. It lost on handsets, so it will continue to develop for desktops and laptops, but now it has to put its eggs in more baskets. So Microsoft is the cloud company, the AI company and the service company, too.

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Author Bio
Andrew E. Freedman
Andrew E. Freedman,
Andrew joined Laptopmag.com in 2015, reviewing computers and keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter @FreedmanAE.
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1 comment
  • Joe Bean Says:

    Microsoft is destroying the great Windows legacy by consumerizing it with marketing spying, forced use of web search with Cortana and Bing on 1803, dropping support of some group policies and other business tools like ReFS and system restore in Pro version each feature update, installation of distractions for work with ads and games reinstallation after feature updates and they say they are focusing on business?

    Well I can say the future might be more Apple than Windows on the desktop for small businesses if they continue to release buggy updates all the time and continue to disrespect its customers like that. A lot of people don't care about their OS features. They just want it to work reliably and not change. Their focus is on the software that run on the OS, not the OS itself.

    Microsoft's mobile efforts failed, their Windows on all devices efforts have failed since Windows 8, which is a long time ago, their store is pathetic and they continue to destroy what has worked for them to replace it with a cloud only solution? Not sure about the success of this in the future. They have mostly managed to do well due to the force of inertia and the fact that lots of businesses still runs 7 and avoid the mess that Windows 10 is.

    What I hear around is people are tired of having issues with the omnipresent updates that change their computer for nothing they really want.

    Warren Buffet just bough Apple shares. Something to read in that move?

    Why not just focus on reliability, security and stability on the desktop? Since the mobile revolution, the desktop has become more and more the boring serious work tool and this is what it should be, not a constantly changing disposable after 3 years product. And please Microsoft, bring the quality assurance testing department you fired, as using your home version customers to test home versions of Windows and business versions clearly doesn't work well.

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