During Wednesday morning's Windows 10 preview event in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft executives made their strongest pitch to date in favor of a somewhat different interpretation of cross-platform functionality than Windows 8 and 8.1 delivered.
But is the company's vision for Windows 10 clear enough to be encapsulated in a single phrase or image that people can rally behind -- a vision as clear as Apple successfully conjures for its products and platforms? That's the essence of the question I put to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during a news conference following the public webcast session.
At least at first, Nadella's answer suggested he believed Microsoft didn't need to articulate such a message, especially now that the company plans to offer Windows 10 as an upgrade to Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users free of charge for the first year.
"I think, for us, the fact that a billion-and-a-half users use Windows is incredible," the CEO's response began. "And we want to be able to serve that base and grow that base with the innovation. To me, the brand is a reflection of the innovation that people love. And that's what I want us to be focused on."
Nadella went on to say he didn't want Microsoft to be aiming for targets set by competitors. Rather, he feels Microsoft can attain genuine love from its customers ("love" is a word he invoked several times Wednesday) by demonstrating a continued series of product innovations.
Manufacturers and producers in various markets arguably do not need to be loved to be successful. But products often do, and when they are -- as was the case with the Volkswagen Beetle, Starbucks Coffee, and the Apple iPhone -- they change their product categories, usually for the better.
While Nadella addressed the question of the public perception of Microsoft, including against Apple as a company, the question posed to him was actually one about Windows 10. Some products that offer a free charter year of service come to be appreciated for that fact, but not necessarily loved. And in a market increasingly defined by a product that is loved (what's more, that runs a special version of Office for tablets), Windows 10 needs a value proposition for why customers should break their engagements.
Executive Vice President for Operating Systems Terry Myerson followed up Nadella's comments by advancing a potential catch-phrase for Windows 10: "a more personal computer." Among his company's aims, Myerson said, was to make Windows more approachable and more natural to users.
"So we kind of know what we stand for; we know what we are pursuing," said Myerson. "And we think it's worthy of the dedication we put into it."
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