this April 2, 2014 file photo, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
gestures during the keynote address of the Build Conference
in San Francisco. Microsoft plans to offer a glimpse of its
vision for Windows on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, as Nadella
seeks to redefine the company and recover from missteps with
its flagship operating system.
SAN FRANCISCO —
Microsoft plans to offer a glimpse of its vision for Windows this
week, as its new CEO seeks to redefine the company and recover
from missteps with its flagship operating system.
Although the new
software won't be formally released until next year, analysts
already consider its success crucial for Microsoft and Satya
Nadella, who has made mobile devices and Internet-based services
priorities since becoming CEO in February.
tablet-like touch controls, Windows 8 had been Microsoft's answer
to slumping sales in personal computers amid a rising demand for
mobile devices. But the company alienated many users by forcing
radical behavioral changes. Research firm IDC even blamed Windows
8 for accelerating a decline in PC sales in the first full quarter
following the system's release in October 2012.
released updates that address some of the complaints, yet
analytics firm Net Applications estimates that five out of six
Windows users are still using something other than Windows 8.
The next major
release will be the company's chance to regain its footing and
show that Microsoft can embrace mobile devices without sacrificing
the traditional computing experience.
"It's one of
the most important launches that they will ever have," said
Patrick Moorhead at the research firm Moor Insights and Strategy.
"It's very important they get it right."
expected to give an early look at some new features Tuesday during
an event the company has billed as a discussion about "what's
next for Windows." The company hasn't said what it plans to
call the new Windows version.
The San Francisco
event is geared toward the business market. Separate sessions
focused on home computer users and others will be held in the
coming months. Analysts say the sessions are part of an effort by
Microsoft to gather feedback and avoid the stumbles it made with
Even after two
years of declining sales of personal computers, software licenses
for Windows are a key element of a business segment that
contributes roughly 21 percent of Microsoft's annual revenue —
second only to sales of the company's commercial software.
introduced a host of new features for personal computers,
including touch-screen functions that are now common with tablets.
Many PC users, however, found the redesigned interface difficult
to navigate, particularly with keyboards and mice on devices
without touch screens. They also missed familiar controls, such as
the "start" button that was a longtime component of
previous Windows systems.
"It was a
miscalculation on the part of Microsoft," said analyst Steve
Kleynhans at the Gartner research firm. "You can't force
people into a situation where everything they know changes."
say Microsoft has good reason to design software that attempts to
broaden its appeal to smartphone and tablet users. Although the
company still dominates the PC industry, that market is barely
growing. Meanwhile, Microsoft has gained little traction in a
booming smartphone market dominated by Apple's iPhones and devices
running Google's Android software.
Nadella has said
he wants the next version of Windows to be a "single,
converged operating system for screens of all sizes."
currently has three main systems — Windows 8 for traditional
computers and tablets, Windows Phone 8 for cellphones and Xbox for
its gaming console. That makes more work for developers, who must
create three versions of apps if they want to reach people on
multiple devices. By unifying the underlying systems, software
developers will be able to create apps for the various devices
more easily. Consumers will also be able to switch devices more
easily and avoid having to buy the same apps multiple times.
The new Windows
is also expected to emphasize more software apps and services that
are hosted on the Internet, or "in the cloud." Nadella
has made the transition to cloud computing a priority.
will need to make the transition to a new Windows less jarring for
the average user Moorhead said. That might include a return to a
more traditional "start" menu for desktops, for example.
Microsoft restored a limited version of the "start"
button when it released a Windows 8.1 update last year.
The company also
has hinted that it may restore a key component of Windows: the
ability to run apps in windows that can overlap and be adjusted to
any size. For newer apps in Windows 8, resizing was limited to how
much horizontal space each app takes on the screen.
Windows 8 offered
some improvements in security and efficiency, but corporations
balked at using the software because they didn't want to spend
time and money teaching employees how to use it, Moorhead said.
Now, as Google
and Apple are starting to pitch their own operating systems to
business users, he added, Microsoft needs to convince business
customers that the next version of Windows is worth using.