Oh, I’m not sure if it will be a success, the difference between me and you is, I think its success is of existential importance for Windows as a consumer operating system.
Look, we’re talking about devices that people surf the internet with, communicate with, bank with, consume content on, etc. What you generally think of as “personal computers”. It’s an analogous term, I know. It’s true that nobody is writing their CV on an Android phone (well, I’m sure a lot of people are, actually, but you know…)
I don’t see much of a difference between form factors, which is why I’m here, as a Hyper Early Bird backer of a device that could be called a laptop, or a tablet, or just “a computer”. It’s something that could theoretically be used for work, or for browsing the internet, or just for content consumption. We know that the PC market is shrinking, because, it turns out, a lot of people didn’t need all the stuff PCs did in the first place. But I suspect that of the PCs that ARE selling, ultra-mobile form-factor devices are the most popular (meaning, thin-and-light laptops, convertibles, 2-in-1s, as opposed to those 17 inch massive laptops people used to have just five or so years ago). So Microsoft knows that they need an operating system that is extremely efficient, extremely secure, fast to wake, always-connected, can fit in absolutely minuscule devices, etc. It has all these goals that legacy kind of interferes with. Intel wants to be able to provide all these things, but it has an ancient architecture with a ballooning instruction set that was first conceived in an era where CISC was the only way to go.
It’s. A problem.
In business, both are safe. To a degree. So is IBM’s Power series, though. Imagine a future where Windows is relegated to a role similar to Solaris back when. Microsoft imagines that world every day and is trying to prevent it from happening.
Neither Apple or Google have to build the apps. The hardest part is getting people to use their platforms. As long as they build a popular platform that is powerful enough to enable complex apps, developers will, eventually, come. imo. Neither started from scratch either, but that’s another story.
The popularity of iOS and Android can’t be denied. It’s not just that they’re widely-used, they’re also widely loved.
Meanwhile, the application frameworks and APIs have gotten increasingly complex with a pretty obvious end goal. The operating systems now support side-by-side multitasking, direct access to GPU hardware, multiple input types (but, crucially, not pointers on iOS, which I think is a huge mistake), etc.
Lets look at legacy apps though, of which I believe there are three kinds:
- The millions of industry-specific, or even company-specific applications that few people will ever hear of. They’re what make Windows such a dominant force. They’re also usually terribly coded, badly maintained, and probably ancient at this point. They never performed great and sticking them in a virtualised/emulated instance would actually be beneficial for a number of reasons (with security being the primary one). A lot of the other stuff is written in Java and is obviously platform agnostic for that reason. Even more is, and always will be, *nix based.
- Big professional applications, usually creative or business related. Stuff that Adobe and Autodesk make. Here I’ll remind you that fifteen years ago, Photoshop and Final Cut etc were said to be infinitely superior on PowerPC. There was a protracted period where Phtooshop on Mac was emulated via Roseta and suffered quite a large performance penalty for it. But really, these applications have existed in some form since the 80s and have jumped OSes and chip architectures and even now exist on at least two different operating systems. It isn’t Intel SIMD extensions that’s stopping them from moving into iOS or being selectively optimised for ARM. It’s the lack of an end-user machine that will utilise them (for instance, the lack of an iOS laptop with capable of running the pointer-centric user interface). Meanwhile, Affinity, which started on the Mac, understands that it needs to port itself to Windows and… iOS.
Another note on this class of application: A lot of business software has successfully migrated to the cloud. The most obvious is Office 365, which lost VBA but nothing else as far as I can tell. Other apps were born in the cloud, and could only have existed there. Salesforce, for example. These will always be platform-agnostic.
- Games, and multimedia/consumer apps: The latter are easily replaced by alternatives. The former are, for desktop PCs, a niche. I think Microsoft should be a little wary of how much mindshare Steam has, as well, especially since Gabe seems to have a pathological, irrational hatred of Windows 8/10.
Generally speaking, legacy is ALL Windows has. Actually new, useful applications for the platform are almost non-existent. Sure, Windows can interface with any printer from like 2001 onwards. That’s great. But a lot of these smart devices that are popular these days have apps for iOS and Android and absolutely nothing for Windows. Which is interesting in itself, right?
The old stuff is going away. And the new stuff is being built with a mobile-first mindset.