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Microsoft Windows 10 Seeks to Capture Mobile Users

The latest update will seek to deliver a consistent experience on screens of all sizes.

Dawn Chmielewski

Microsoft outlined its plans to grab a bigger share of the mobile world Wednesday with a preview of the latest update to its iconic Windows operating system.

Windows 10, due out later this year, will seek to deliver a consistent experience on screens of all sizes. And Microsoft will look to spur adoption by offering it as a free update to people using earlier versions of the operating system, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

In a two-hour presentation that emphasized the consumer experience, Microsoft said it will bring its familiar Office productivity software to smartphones in a way that adapts its word processing, email and presentation apps for the smaller screen.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore demonstrated how Word, Calendar and PowerPoint boast the same features as their desktop counterparts, but are reoriented for screens eight inches and smaller. Changes made on a mobile phone to, say, a Word document or a PowerPoint presentation will be reflected across devices.

“If I’m on a PC or editing a document in OneDrive,” said Belfiore, “it roams from device to device.”

One innovation from the mobile world will migrate to the Windows desktop — Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant. The assistant responds to voice commands, fetching documents or photos, scheduling appointments or composing and sending emails.

Microsoft’s familiar browser gets a makeover in this update of the operating system. Project Spartan allows users to mark up a Web page as if it were a static document, making notations and sharing it with friends or co-workers. It will allow users to view Web documents in one, standard format and harness Cortana’s intelligence to deliver information that’s relevant to a search.

The updates in Windows 10 are informed by three major ideas, said Terry Myerson, Microsoft executive vice president of operating systems. The first was to allow for seamless mobility — the ability to move effortlessly from one device to another. The second was to protect users’ privacy, noting that “you are our customer, not our product.” Lastly, Windows 10 aimed to enable natural interactions.

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said his goal with the update of the venerable operating system, now used by more than 1.5 billion people, is to make the familiar software a product people are passionate about using.

“We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows. That is our bold goal,” Nadella told the press and analysts assembled on the company’s Redmond campus. “Those are the strategies that are going to help us realize our mission.”

Microsoft is hoping to build anticipation for the new version, which comes out later this year. Windows is a flagship product that contributed nearly 25 percent of Microsoft’s revenue in fiscal 2013, the last year in which the company separately reported revenue for the operating system.

The company began offering previews of the software last September, when it talked about features that might interest corporate buyers.

One analyst who attended the presentation, Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, said that even if Microsoft delivers a consistent Windows experience across devices, that may not be enough of a benefit to motivate consumers to abandon their Apple or Android smartphones.

“Consistency and ease of use aren’t going to give Microsoft the market share they need,” Moorhead said. “It’s going to have to be something different.”

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