It happens about as often as Leap Year. Next week we expect to see a new Windows software from Microsoft. Officially, Microsoft calls it a consumer preview but it begins the first launch since 2009 of Microsoft’s longest running product line and biggest profit center.
Windows history is spotted with technical glitches, security flaws and over-hyped features failing to deliver the ease-of-use most customers want. Still, the franchise continues to deliver fat profits for Microsoft.
In 2010, the latest full year available, its Windows business brought in 27 percent of revenue. But this same business was responsible for 45 percent of Microsoft’s operating income. Three-quarters of the Windows business comes from computer makers putting Windows software on their machines before they are even sold.
It’s easy to beat-up on Microsoft with its massive reach into our computer lives. Especially when compared to the grace of Apple or the openness of Google, Microsoft has been painted as a monolith from days gone by. But it remains integral to our technology lives with its growing presence on computer database servers, on office computers and in-home entertainment through its Xbox device.
A new Windows program through which to gaze at the cyber world beyond our computer screens comes as we increasingly unplug our digital lives and go mobile. We are dropping the mouse in favor of our fingers. Microsoft is known for being slow to recognize market changes but it’s a giant with big resources and a lot of muscle. It will try to use it to make sure Windows doesn’t get stuck.