Windows 10 is the new DOS
I find it fitting to talk a bit about some of my theories on the future of the Windows operating system on the 20th anniversary of Microsoft’s smash OS hit: Windows 95 (it’s the ZOG Blog, after all, where I can talk about anything I want on this site). I remember, even at a very young age, being very reticent to jump onboard with Windows 95. For one, I loved Windows 3.1 and was really used to using it, and I was being informed that Windows 95 was a very different experience. And I was also very concerned (I was barely 14 years old at the time) that my PC games could suffer due to installing Windows 95. One Must Fall 2049, TIE Fighter, Star Trek: Judgement Rites, Rise of the Robots 2, and Wacky Wheels, just to name a few. You REALLY didn’t want to get in the way of me playing those. As I’ve said in the past, I’m a gamer first, a historian second, and a tech journalist third. But it is in that order. I always identify first as a “gamer”.
That said, though, my concerns were largely unwarranted. MS-DOS was still a totally viable and usable OS underneath Windows 95 with Windows 95 installed. And I think there is a lesson in this for today. Microsoft is totally comfortable with maintaining two heavily-used desktop operating systems at the same time. Keep in mind that MS-DOS was the major operating system in the PC realm for a decade, at least, all the while their primary development and efforts were put into various versions of Windows.
I think this is happening once again within Microsoft with Windows 10. Except this time Windows may be taking on the role of DOS.
Windows 10 has been provided largely for free to anyone that has a computer that Microsoft would be interested in having onboard. And for those that are buying new computers, you’re essentially getting it for free (yes, it’s somewhat included in the price, I know). Not just computers get this free upgrade, though, even phones and tablets (and the Xbox One!) are getting in on the action. And updates to Windows 10 will be completely free for all of these users, if Microsoft is to be believed, which is shocking to some since Windows 10 has also been billed by Microsoft as “the last version of Windows…ever”. And with Microsoft offering the option of software becoming a Windows 10 Universal app (meaning it can run on any platform), being a part of Microsoft’s new ecosystem is a painless process (as long as you don’t mind writing code for Windows 10).
This “universality” of Windows 10 is one of the initial reasons that I think it has become the “new DOS” in Microsoft’s future plans. As DOS was the underlying base code that Microsoft could count on throughout the 90’s while releasing newer operating systems, so will Windows 10 be the foundation that Microsoft can rely on to release…a new OS.
Like I mentioned earlier, Microsoft seems to plan to make little-to-no money on Windows 10 (other than from enterprise clients). So as a company, what is Microsoft’s plan to make profit? While some would think they’ll just keep making money from games or the Xbox One, itself, at the present time I don’t think the market bears that as a possible reality. Could it be from Office 365 subscriptions? That’s certainly plausible. Office 365 subscriptions are near revolutionary, in my opinion, considering that they offer you unlimited cloud storage (a first in the industry), as well as access to software standards–Microsoft Office–still used nearly everywhere. There are other advantages, too, but suffice it to say that–from a purely consumer standpoint–an Office 365 subscription is a no-brainer to have at under $10 a month. And while Office 365 has been wildly successful, I still don’t think this is enough to keep the Microsoft ship sailing smoothly.
This is where that new OS comes in, and I admit it’s just a theory on my part with scant evidence. But there is some evidence. Enter “Midori“. Midori was/is a codename for a new Microsoft operating system that was originally discovered in 2012–the same year that the flop-known-as Windows 8 was released. When one does some research on Midori, you are presented with some impressive ideas, including the implementation of each app running in its own “sandbox” (somewhat similar to how the fantastic QubesOS runs), as well as run apps from multiple nodes and allow for concurrency (both ideas which are far more possible today due to the prevalence of cloud and P2P technologies, as late). The security and resiliency aspects of such an operating system are worth the price of admission alone…oh…I just gave the punchline away.
Yes, this is Microsoft’s answer to profitability in the near future: charging money for a new, “killer OS” which will likely be based off of Midori developments. I’m not the first one to theorize something like this (the great John C. Dvorak has that honor). But I think it’s accurate. The speed and security with which something like Midori could run would appeal to enterprise clients and consumer’s alike. And a whole new cycle of operating system iterations would begin.
Hell, as one Microsoft engineer had theorized, Windows might actually become totally open-source one day! Why not, it’s free, and it will be (if my theory is right) the backbone for the entire Microsoft ecosystem…but an ecosystem that will be only fully usable if you are running the new Midori-based OS. But before you can sell Midori, you need to get people onboard with your services now. And I think that equally explains Microsoft’s recent impressive push of apps and services on iOS and Android (of all ironies, in my opinion, Microsoft is “doing” Android and iOS better than Google and Apple are). Maybe Cortana will eventually only be available on Midori after you’re hooked on use of Cortana (and the reports are already in that people find it very natural to use Cortana almost instantly). I think Microsoft’s recent “experiments” in handling and disabling pirated software and pirated copies of Windows 10 (which I talked about more on a recent episode of my podcast: Sovryn Tech) may also be attempts at making sure that those who have this new Midori-based OS in the future are actually paying for it.
And what would Microsoft charge for this new OS? Would it be a subscription plan? If everyone’s already using Windows 10 (and Windows 10 is the backbone), yeah, it’s possible. But I think they’ll likely stick with just selling it for a flat fee. Services are one thing to pay a subscription fee to, but the very OS that your hardware runs off of? Yeah, that’s not something you’d want to just lose access to because you couldn’t make a monthly payment.
Now, all of this said, I don’t think Microsoft is doing anything “evil” here. It’s a business plan, and it’s one that makes a degree of sense. If it’s all true, I also think it’s a winning business strategy. Perhaps even the new Midori-based OS will be open-sourced, but Cortana will rely so much on Microsoft’s own servers that people will still pay for the new OS. It’s all guesswork on my part, at the moment.
Of course, if you’re saying that Microsoft as a company in-and-of-itself is “evil” and doesn’t care about privacy, property, etc., well…I’m not going to argue against that (and certainly Apple and Google are no better). I’ve been impressed as of late by some of the things that Microsoft’s latest CEO–Satya Nadella–has been doing around the company. Also admittedly, I’m a Windows user (though not Windows-only, Trisquel is my OS of choice), but that largely comes from me being a gamer, as I said earlier. Really, if you want to seriously game, and if you want access to the single largest gaming library in the known history of humanity–yeah, you would use Windows, too. And there are other “good” reasons that many people still use Windows. I get it.
But perhaps this is a glimpse into our future as users of the platform. We’re far from in the same world that Windows 95 was unleashed upon, that’s for sure.