On the surface, Microsoft doesn't appear to have provided much new information about Windows in its opening Worldwide Partner Conference keynote on Monday. But high-level executives from the firm did provide a lot of useful information, including a subtle acknowledgement about an evolving feature coming now in Windows 9 "Threshold."
If you haven't yet, you can check out my overview of the opening WPC keynote in WPC 2014: Microsoft Has a "Challenger Mentality" in Mobile First, Cloud First World. Here, I'll focus just on the Windows bits, including Windows Phone of course.
It's not all about Windows anymore. We knew this. But it's sobering to realize that Windows, which still controls over 90 percent of the PC market, only commands 14 percent of the wider market for personal computing devices (mobile phones + smart phones + tablets + hybrids + PCs). Microsoft is making lemonade here—that's a big opportunity, too—and it's fair to note that the firm's revenues have never declined year over year, so there's no reason to believe that growth won't continue. It's just that Microsoft has moved from "Windows only" to "Windows first" to "Windows plus Android plus iOS." It's just part of the story.
1.3 billion users. Microsoft noted that both Windows and Office have over 1 billion users each. But the Microsoft by the Numbers web site recently provided a more exact figure for actual Windows users: 1.3 billion.
Zero royalty Windows is already paying off. In April, Microsoft announced that it would offer Windows/Windows Phone for free (well, for "$0") on devices with screens that were 9 inches wide or smaller. "We saw 31 new device wins the week we announced this licensing change alone," Turner said. "And it's accelerated every week since then. The proliferation of Windows is happening because of that strategic change."
Windows Phone momentum. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner said that the past (fiscal) year has been a good one for Windows Phone. The platform has seen 91 percent year-over-year growth, the highest in the industry by far. It is the number two selling mobile platform in 14 markets, and outsells iPhone in 24 markets. And it has 10 percent market share or higher in 8 markets. Plus, there are over 270,000 apps in Windows Phone Store. The Nokia Lumia lineup has done particularly well, with the firm selling 12 million Lumia 520 handsets alone. But the firm has established numerous new device partners thanks to that zero dollar royalty on all phones. So we're going to see even more diversity in the year ahead.
Universal apps. With Windows 8.1 Update 1 and Windows Phone 8.1—the latter of which is just starting to rollout—developers can create so-called Universal apps that run across phones (smart phones and phablets), tablets (mini-tablets and full-sized tablets), 2-in-1s and laptops, and desktop PCs. And Mr. Turner noted that getting to one app store and one developer API was a key "focus and mission" for OS lead Terry Myerson. But more is coming: Starting with the next version of Windows (codenamed Threshold) developers will be able to create Universal apps that also run on Xbox One (TV) and big-screen Perceptive Pixel (PPI) devices.
The next release of Windows. Speaking of Threshold, Kevin Turner offered up a subtle change in messaging around how Microsoft would deliver certain coming features, like the new Start screen and the ability to run Metro apps on the desktop. That is, these features are coming in "the next release of Windows" (aka Threshold) and not "some coming update to Windows 8.1" (which could have been Update 1, Update 2, or similar). Subtle? Yes. But it's there. Also. "We are working on this next release of Windows," he said. "We talked about it some at Build. And we're really listening to customers. It will be great, world-class enterprise OS when it comes out. There will be game changing functionality in there for enterprises."
Internet of Things. Microsoft's approach to the so-called Internet of Things is to build a new embedded OS that will be called some version of Windows and to focus on connectivity. (See With SDK Release, a Better Understanding of Windows IoT for more info.) At WPC, Mr. Turner offered just a bit more info. "We want to participate [in the Internet of Things]," he said. "A unique approach is needed. How will companies leverage all the data that will be created, manage all the devices. We will make the Internet of Things smarter with a trusted platform and powerful analytics."
New devices coming. It was quick, and only on a slide, but Microsoft highlighted the Fujitsu LIFEBOOK T904, HP Elitebook 1040 G1, Acer Iconia W4 821, Dell XPS 13, Acer Aspire Switch 10, Lenovo ThinkCentre M93p Tiny, Toshiba Encore 2 10", Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, HP Beats 23 Special Edition AIO, ASUS UX303, Dell Venue 11 Pro, and Samsung ATIV Book 9 as "great new devices coming" soon. Actually, some are here now. But one new device was called out explicitly, the HP Stream, a nice-looking laptop that will sell for just $199 this holiday season.