A top Microsoft exec on working with Apple, competing with Google’s Chromebooks, and the future of Windows – Business Insider
Microsoft has been busy lately.
At its Build developer conference last week, the software
giant announced Windows 10
would be getting new integrations with Android and iPhone.
Earlier this month, it unveiled
a new Surface Laptop along with a new version of its
flagship operating system — dubbed Windows
10 S — to power it.
Oh, and next week Microsoft
is expected to unveil a new Surface tablet.
The moves are all connected, Microsoft
CVP of Windows Joe Belfiore, who also serves as an advisor to
the company’s education business, told Business Insider at the
Build conference last week.
People use different types of devices, not just Windows PCs,
Belfiore said. If Windows wants to win, it has to play nicely
with non-Windows gadgets like iPhones and Android smartphones.
Meanwhile, Windows 10 S’s mission is to win over tech-savvy
students, who are already living this PC-plus-smartphone
“Thematically, this is us jumping in to support this multi-device
world,” Belfiore said.
In the interview, Belfiore talked about competing with Google,
improving the Windows Store, and how Microsoft convinced
make a new version of iTunes for its app marketplace.
A big reason for the success of Google’s Chromebooks is they’re
cheap and easy for schools to manage. And because the Chrome OS
is little more than the Chrome web browser in a fancy shell, they
punch above their weight performance-wise and don’t get bogged
down by software running in the background.
This speaks to a historical weakness for Windows. Back in 2007,
an anonymous Microsoft executive infamously referred to
software on new Windows PCs as “craplets” — junk that
slows your computer down and makes its performance degrade over
time. And while it’s something that’s certainly gotten
better, that kind of “software rot,” as it’s called, is still a
Belfiore is kinder than the exec of a decade ago — PC
manufacturers are “well intentioned,” he said, and
merely trying to pre-load useful apps for their
customers. Still, going forward, he’d like Windows 10 devices to
“appear to all their customers as highly reliable and high
performance and non-degrading.”
Windows 10 S is meant to address take a step in that direction
and offer an experience comparable to Chrome OS. It checks
off many of the same boxes — faster boot-up time, easy IT
department management, and no software rot. Windows 10 S devices
will run as smoothly on day 100 as on day 1, Microsoft likes to
say. And it’ll be available on sub-$300 laptops.
But unlike Chromebooks, those Windows 10 S laptops, which are
targeted at the education market, will sport all the benefits of
Windows — including full versions of Microsoft Office, the
familiar Start menu interface, and soon, enhanced support for all
the devices they’re already using.
The big tradeoff
All of those benefits in Windows 10 S do come with a notable
cost. To ensure that no viruses, malware or pernicious “craplets”
affect system performance and ruin your experience, Microsoft
will only let Windows 10 S users install software they’ve
downloaded from the Windows Store. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s app
market lacks several of the most popular apps and lags far behind
Apple’s App Store or Google Play in the total number of apps
But it’s only a matter of time before the store reaches its full
potential, Belfiore said. Windows 10 isn’t yet two years
old, and as it grows, it’s going to attract more apps to the
store, he argued.
“Windows 10 is pretty young,” he said. “You’ve got to have scale
to get engagement.”
Windows 10 S will play an important role in Microsoft trying to
reach that scale, Belfiore said. Because it’s going into schools,
which Microsoft sees as a growth market, it could get a lot
of young, app-savvy customers using Windows. And because
Windows 10 S only lets users download apps from the Windows
Store, developers who want to reach those students might be
convinced to start making apps for it.
That dynamic explains why Apple recently decided to list
iTunes in the Windows Store, Belfiore said. In order for students
using Windows 10 S to be able to buy music or movies from iTunes
or access the Apple Music streaming service, it needed
to work with Microsoft to get the full version of iTunes into the
So while Windows Store may be an also-ran today, its ability
to attract apps like iTunes and Spotify is a sign of things to
come, he said.
“We’re starting to get to the tipping point,” Belfiore said.