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Forget Windows 10. Here are the four most important words Microsoft said today.

Preston Gralla | Jan. 22, 2015
The new Spartan browser, the Cortana digital assistant and even the snazzy holographic platform weren't the real high points of Microsoft's presentation.

What's not clear yet is Microsoft's revenue model for this. Will you only need to buy Windows once and will it automatically auto-upgrade for free forever? Will you need to pay a subscription fee every year? Will you be able to buy subscriptions for multiple devices? Microsoft is playing coy at this point and not giving out any answers.

Going for mobile
Turning Windows into a service also appears to be part of Microsoft's latest attempt to gain traction in mobile. In providing Windows as a single, unified service to developers as well as users, Microsoft is combining its Windows 10 and Windows Phone 10 developer platforms into a single platform, with one Windows Store.

Microsoft apparently hopes that this will ultimately lead to more apps being developed for Windows Phones. Although Windows Phone has a small user base, Windows has a massive one -- Microsoft claimed back in late 2011 that 1.25 billion Windows PCs were running worldwide. Developers who may not want to write apps for the small Windows Phone user base may well want to write for the much larger one number of traditional PCs --- and those apps could then be run on mobile devices, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft emphasized several times during its presentation that it sees Windows as a single experience (a single service, really) across multiple devices -- that what you start on your PC you can continue to work with on a tablet and then finish it up on a phone. Files created on one device will be synched with all your other devices. Microsoft is building a number of common apps into its unified Windows platform, including apps for mail, photos and entertainment, as well as Office, which will be free for devices under eight inches. That's one more way the company hopes that providing Windows as a single service across multiple devices will spur people to buy Windows mobile hardware.

Will doing all this with Windows as a Service help Microsoft accomplish what it wants? And is it something that users will want?

For users of traditional PCs, it's a no-brainer. Who doesn't want Windows to upgrade itself automatically, no big-bang install required, for as long as a device lives? It's a win for users and Microsoft here. (I'll talk about how much of a win within a week or so, when I review the new version of Windows 10.)

As for mobile, it's not quite so clear. Windows Phone has only a 3% market share, according to IDC, and that share fell in the last year. Windows as a Service may be too little, too late to make up for that.


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