The week of Windows Funerals shows an interesting turning point in the history of Microsoft.
A week that seemed to be marked by loss actually shows the completed birth of a new Microsoft.
So last week marked two key “deaths” in the history of Microsoft and its products, that of Windows 7 and of Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Phone as a whole. Both products have had official support cut off by Microsoft and are essentially the software equivalent of a ghost town; parts of them still work of course and you can technically still use them, but you probably shouldn’t want to for a number of security and convenience reasons. But while there’s definitely still some forums online where you’ll find die-hard fans ranting about the death of these products and saying how Microsoft are *insert not so nice word here* for doing this, both of these deaths show the culmination of key progressive moves the company has made leading up to this, and how the company is arguably at the best point it’s ever been in recent memory.
Despite both being officially killed of last week however, Windows 7 and Windows 10 are two very different products in terms of where they stood. The former is still one of Microsoft’s biggest successes, saving users from the horrible clutches of Windows Vista (or moving to a Mac like the commercials said) and creating one of the most reliable, sturdy and performant versions of Windows ever. Windows 10 Mobile however, was a desperate attempt to hold on to a smartphone market that had since left Microsoft behind and despite its best effort, failed to reach any viable reason to exist in the smartphone duopoly that is iOS and Android. It could easily be deduced that Microsoft probably had planned to leave Windows 7 behind by at this point ten years ago, while they hoped the story wouldn’t be the same for their smartphone OS efforts, but as we said before, both moves are key as Microsoft sheds pretty much all of it’s past to embrace the future of Windows, Office, Azure and all their other products as well.
Windows 7 could easily be called the best version of Windows for good reason, as it’s hard to dispute just how good it was. It’s still easily less taxing on system resources than base Windows 10 and could essentially run amazingly well on almost every machine in existence now as most at least came from the past 15 years or so. Simplicity and effectiveness where the name of the game for Windows 7, and it was definitely more than enough to make a great OS for Microsoft 11 years ago . But as time has changed, the smartphone has become the dominant basic computer in the world, along with software markets and what customers actually want vs. which ways a company can keep making money, as well as the internet tying multiple different software platforms and products together, it’s become apparent that the Windows 7 approach wasn’t enough for Microsoft. The company needed an operating system that suited all kinds of PC users, enterprise or consumer, and offered enough functionality to mimic key smartphone features or make the smartphone complement it, all while integrating more and more with Microsoft’s cloud efforts and making users reliant on key products like Office. And at first, that OS was Windows 8, but that didn’t work out too well and Microsoft released Windows 10 three years later, which combined the best aspects of the previous two Windows versions , having the simpler and effective approach akin to 7 , but also tying in reliance on a Microsoft account, key integrations with Microsoft software and cloud services and some pretty intriguing support features for other software platforms such as BASH terminals for Linux users and smartphone integrations for both Android and iOS.
Microsoft has since realized that in today’s world it’s not about the operating system itself, but rather the usage of your services and ecosystem, which is why it’s made Windows 10 an operating system full of services that keep you in Microsoft’s ecosystem even when you’re not using a Microsoft product. Chances are most people who use Office, Outlook or even Cortana actually go on to look for those same services when using an Android, iOS or even MacOS device. And those services in turn tend to keep a lot of people coming back to Windows as well, making Windows 10 the operating system for Microsoft’s future as much as it’s present, which is why the company has said it’s the “last version of Windows”, constantly being updated and incremented upon essentially being the same OS at it’s core.
Even the recently announced Windows 10X for foldable and dual-screen devices will aim to be a more light-weight and efficient Windows 10, but still rely on the same core code, something that Microsoft could never have accomplished with Windows 7, and showing in part why it had to put the titan to pasture.
Now, back to Windows 10 Mobile. I’ll start by saying I was using this operating system for 3 years, only fully switching to Android around the middle of last year and in all honesty, I loved using it. Granted, I was a die-hard Windows fan, but I had been using Android and even Symbian phones before I started playing with a Windows device. What made me fall in love with Microsoft’s devices were a commitment to provide efficient, powerful OS that could run on less powerful devices than their Android and iOS counterparts. Windows phone 7 devices where known to run on efficiently on as low as 256mb of RAM in the Lumia 610, while even the Windows Phone 8 Lumia 520 ran Asphalt 8 on 512 mb of RAM, something you needed at least 1GB to do on Android. Windows 10 Mobile aimed to take this further, debuting the ability to turn your phone into a desktop PC with continuum at least three years before Samsung was talking about Dex. Microsoft was showing off the power of software optimization long before Google and Oneplus started touting those as buzzwords for their cameras or software performance. And that optimization was only half of the equation, with the same software integration and core code base being a key feature especially in Windows 10 Mobile. In simple terms, it allowed you to essentially use the same Windows version of your program on both your PC and phone, having parity as far as features, parity and reliability were concerned.
Even other niceties like Wi-Fi passwords easily shared between devices, answering texts and phone calls from your PC or using one device to find the other all contributed to a great ecosystem dream that Microsoft is completing today on other platforms instead of Windows Phone which it started them on. And let’s be frank here, it’s not like Windows 10 Mobile was perfect. In fact, it’s debatable that the platform was still even good if you weren’t a die-hard Windows fan or understood the platform’s philosophies and design choices (Quick side note: the tiles and dark-mode have since been adopted in some way or form by competitors ever since Windows Phone started them). But it’s definite that Windows Phone was a necessary step in the evolution of Microsoft’s product offerings especially when considering one of their most surprising choices to date; the Surface Duo.
Now Microsoft surprised almost everyone unveiling this thing in October at their Surface Hardware event. Here was a dual-screen, foldable slick-looking mobile device running Android instead of some new version of Windows based on mobile devices again. Now die-hard Microsoft fans had been waiting for a Surface Phone ever since 2016, and rumors state that at one point this was definitely supposed to be a Windows 10 Mobile device with some new continuum and shell features to support the two screes. But the project seemed to get scrapped and the last thing anyone expected was for Microsoft to bring back their surface phone in the form of an Android device. And why Android you may ask? Well, in the words of Surface team chief Panos Panay , “that’s where all your apps are”.
Microsoft seemingly leveraged their chances here and knew it was better to create an Android device made to their specs and customized to their liking with their Android launcher and apps like Office built in rather than try to revive a near-dead platform in Windows 10 Mobile with a device that might still fail because of said software platform. It likely wasn’t an easy choice to make, but it’s a key indicator of Microsoft’s forward momentum in being everywhere in all the right ways even without having a dedicated operating system or hardware device there, working with partners and even key competitors to do this.
Their new (and significantly better) Edge Browser is a key example of this, being built on Google’s Chromium(which is also used for Google Chrome) engine and being better for it by offering users all the speed and reliability they need from a browser and even having battery and RAM optimizations that might make it better than Chrome. Add this to the multiple great Office apps and OneNote that are on iOS, Android and Mac and work just as great as they do on Windows, Cortana working on Amazon Echos alongside Alexa and Xbox game streaming services that might end up working even on the Nintendo Switch, and you have a different Microsoft from the company that initially released Windows 7 11 years ago, and one that’s better for it. After all, around the beginning of 2019 they were the most valuable company in the world, and still stay in that ballpark to this day, so obviously this strategy is working out for them.
And thus, last week’s funerals for two beloved Microsoft products aren’t a sad point or anything to be angry about, even if even here we’ll definitely miss Windows 7. Instead they’re this new Microsoft fully coming into its own, and that’s something that everyone should be happy about Microsoft/tech fan or otherwise.
The Windows Phone segment of this article was mostly written and edited in OneNote on my Lumia 540 Dual, as a promise I made to in my last article about OneNote, Windows Phone and Microsoft’s original vision for the platform. I will miss the using the device as my daily driver, and still use it for a few features I haven’t completely let go of from time to time. But in the end, I’ve inevitably moved on from it, and if you’re reading this on a Windows Phone or Windows 7 device, you should probably move on as soon as you can too. Promise we’ll help you adjust here at TZP.
Best of luck,