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Previous USAToday Columns

March 5, 2015
MWC 2015: It was all about connected wearables

February 11, 2015
High tech and the laggard effect

anuary 29, 2015
Microsoft Hololens and the evolution of computing

January 15, 2015
Commentary: Tech device diversity set to explode with IoT

2014 USAToday Columns

















USAToday Column


March 19, 2015
Microsoft Windows: Not dead yet

By Bob O'Donnell

FOSTER CITY, Calif. -- As if the never-ending reports of the PC's death weren't enough (almost always written on a PC of some sort, ironically), there have been predictions of Microsoft Windows' impending doom for quite some time as well.

Particularly in the Apple- and Google-enriched air hanging over Silicon Valley, it sometimes feels like the demise of Windows is presumed to be a foregone conclusion. It's not if, but when.

Out in the real world, however, the story is often much different.

Windows still sits at the heart of computers in a huge majority of commercial entities around the world and a significant percentage of consumers' devices and online experiences. In reality, it's not going away anytime soon. Plus, as Microsoft's announcements from their WinHEC conference in Shenzen, China, earlier this week illustrated, there's still plenty of life in Windows.

In fact, the latest version of Windows, Windows 10, will be made available across an impressive 190 countries and 111 languages this summer and, best of all, will be free.
Existing PC owners currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8 can get a no-cost upgrade for their current PCs and new PCs will come bundled with the new version likely around the back-to-school buying season. (New PCs purchased between now and then will also get a free upgrade when the software becomes available.)

In fact, Microsoft even decided to give free upgrades to people who are currently running pirated (that is, unpaid) versions of Windows because, well, they would have gotten it for free anyway. At least now, the argument goes, everyone can be an equal member of the Windows family.

To be fair, none of this would matter if the product wasn't compelling. Just because something's free, doesn't make it good, after all. Thankfully, early reports and my own experiences with the new OS have been positive. By bringing back the Start Menu, which disappeared in Windows 8 and became a source of confusion for many users, as well as adding some intriguing new capabilities, Windows 10 looks to make PCs interesting again.

In fact, Microsoft has a few clever tricks up its sleeve for Windows 10. Adding Cortana, the voice-recognition personal assistant software first introduced on Windows Phones, to Windows 10 PCs and tablets is a big deal, for example.

The Cortana function on Windows 10 PCs means a wide variety of people will be able to try out this futuristic capability in the kind of quiet environment that I think will make it even more effective than on mobile phones. Simply asking your computer to do something or look something up or answer a question can be pretty compelling when it works right.

Earlier this week, Microsoft also unveiled Windows Hello, which, on appropriately equipped PCs, will enable you to use your physical presence or a simple gesture to log into your PC. The "gotcha" is that you'll need either a fingerprint reader, one of Intel's new RealSense 3D cameras, or a special infrared camera built-in (or plugged in) to your PC or tablet running Windows 10. (Hey, given the free upgrade, they need to provide some kind of incentives for people to buy new PCs to work with Windows 10.)

Once you have that, however, Windows can use facial recognition, iris recognition or fingerprint recognition — all forms of what is called biometric authentication — to verify that you are you. Once you are "verified," you are then automatically (and securely) logged into not only your PC but also applications, supported websites with their own log-ins, and more, all without needing to type (or remember) a single password. Pretty cool.

As a result, by this fall you'll be able to do things like walk up to your PC, sit down and say "Cortana, go to this website" or "find these pictures" or any of a host of other activities that could happen either locally on the PC or over the web, and it should all just happen without any typing or other actions necessary on your part.

In addition to all the PC-related news, the company also announced Windows 10 partnerships for smartphones with Lenovo and Xiaomi, one of the hottest smartphone brands in China. All told, as the character in the infamous Monty Python and the Holy Grail scene remarks, they're "not dead yet."

Bob O'Donnell is founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a technology consulting and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community.

Here's a link to the original column: http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2015/03/18/microsoft-windows-is-not-dead-yet-apple-google/24998223/

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