Vineet Durani is nervous. He is perched on the edge of a faux leather chair in a makeshift cabin at the back of Hall No. 14 in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, trying to block out the din of loudspeakers that boom outside. The air-conditioner is on full blast, but Durani’s forehead is beaded with sweat, and every few minutes he glances down and jabs at the screen of his Lumia 930.
Durani is the Director of the Windows Business group at Microsoft India, and today – July 29 – is a big day for him. Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest version of its flagship operating system, has started rolling out to PCs around the world minutes ago and the company is on tenterhooks.
The company's last version of Windows – Windows 8 – was an unmitigated disaster. By trying to artificially bolt on a touchscreen interface to the traditional desktop, Microsoft alienated its core users – the millions of people around the world who use their computer with a traditional keyboard and mouse.
Windows 10 is Microsoft’s attempt to fix its wrongs. It has brought back the Start Menu, instead of having its colourful live tiles take over people’s entire screens when they click the Start button; touchscreen apps run side-by-side with traditional desktop apps in windows on the desktop instead of full screen; and under the hood, there are thousands of tweaks to improve desktop security and performance. Most importantly, Windows 10 is a free upgrade to anyone running Windows 7 or 8 on their computers.
“The last 8 or 9 months have been a long journey,” says Durani. “But today is D-Day.”
His phone burrs politely and Durani glances down at his email. Pictures from Windows 10 fan events from other parts of the world have just started flowing in. “Look, this is from New Zealand, which was the first place to get it (Windows 10)”, he says. “And this from Beijing.”
More pictures will flow in as the world wakes up."We’re just getting started," says Durani and breaks into a smile.
Here are excerpts from an interview to HT.
Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 brings back a lot of older computing paradigms like the Start Menu. What is the message you are trying to send to users with the new operating system?
Very simply put, it’s the best Windows ever, according to Microsoft.
Well, that’s every version of Windows.
This one is significantly better, which is why we skipped a number. There is no more 3- to 4-year upgrade cycle. It’s a common operating system for all kinds of device, not just PC. HoloLens (Microsoft’s virtual reality headset), for instance, runs Windows 10 too. New things get invented all the time and we can just take this operating system and put it on any of those devices.
I’ve been using Windows 10 for a while now and it’s a really solid desktop operating system. But the fact is that for most of us, our smartphones and tablets now are the primary computing devices outside offices. What is Windows 10 doing to address this new reality?
You know, everybody looks at it in a very binary way. For a while, everybody thought that the PC is the centre of all computing. That certainly changed to phones. What’s the guarantee that the phone is going to be the centre for a lifetime? One single form-factor is not going to be the hub of your world forever. Windows 10 is an operating system for pretty much every device that exists out there.
The strong focus around the desktop right now is just because we’re announcing the availability of the desktop version. The mobile version will follow in the next few months.
Our focus is on the mobility of the experience versus thinking about a form factor. We think about experiences that travel across form factors. We even have services on iOS and Android apps. That’s very much a part of our strategy. Users are not going to say 'I’m only going to buy devices from one ecosystem'.
Today you might think the devices are just limited. But cars are also computers. Everything around us is becoming smarter and smarter.
Nearly half of India’s 55 million computers are in enterprises. How do you plan to get them to upgrade to Windows 10?
Actually, a significant percentage of those computers are within small- and medium-sized businesses which don’t really have any legacy or mission-critical applications or even a well-defined IT policy. In that sense, they are just like home users. So they’ll just upgrade – I don’t see many challenges there.