Windows life is entering its last stage as Microsoft is turning to AI and IoT

Aurel Dragan 01/06/2018 | 07:00

Microsoft’s Windows operating system is dominating the PC world with a market share of 81.7 percent on desktop platforms (including laptops). OS X, Apple’s operating system, is far behind with 13.2 percent and any other OSs are not to be taken into consideration. But Windows widespread use is approaching the end as Microsoft is moving towards low-power SoC (system-on-chip), based on ARM architecture.

Windows 10, just like the versions before it (8.1, 7, Vista, XP etc.), is based on a Win32 subsystem that has been present since 1990s, as well as on the Intel x86 architecture. Windows API (or Win32 API – application programming interfaces) refers to several different platform implementations. Almost all Windows programs interact with Windows API and Microsoft has developed a huge variety of programs around it.

Now, in the age of smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks (or just PCs with OS on cloud), the OS is moving to microarchitectures. ARM, previously Advanced RISC Machine and originally Acorn RISC Machine, is a family of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) for computer processors introduced 7 years ago. British company ARM Holdings develops the architecture and licenses it to other companies, who design their own products that implements one of those architectures, including systems-on-chips (SoC) and systems-on-modules (SoM).

Processors that have a RISC architecture require fewer transistors than the “complex instruction set computing” such as x86 processors. RISC improves cost, power consumption and heat dissipation, characteristics desired for light, portable, battery-powered devices. It is no question why ARM architecture is having such big success in such a short time. And it is the low-consumption of electricity that may take ARM architecture chips in supercomputers being a power-efficient solution. By 2017, there were over 100 billion ARM processors produced by companies like Qualcomm or Huawei.

Past and future success

Microsoft is not relying on past success that gives it the market share today. There are already Windows systems that use ARM processors, like HP’s Envy X2 2-in-1. But the company lead by Satya Nadella is aiming at IoT (Internet-of-Things) appliances with a more modernized software that is targeting all the platforms available.

“Digital technology, pervasively, is getting embedded in every place: every thing, every person, every walk of life is being fundamentally shaped by digital technology and it is happening in our homes, our work, our places of entertainment… It’s amazing to think of a world as a computer. I think that’s the right metaphor for us as we go forward,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, quoted by Zdnet.com.

This company is investing huge amounts of money into Azure datacenter and it’s expanding the development of Edge Computing and IoT. The goal is that its cloud APIs to touch everything that has a microprocessor and a network connection. For example, a PC user may not use the Windows version of Office 365, but smartphones and tablets are already enrolled no matter what OS is using (Android or iOS).

Some mobile applications, like Outlook or Office Lens, are already free to download and use and the consumer version of OneDrive is one of the best cloud storage and backup services available both on Android and iOS.

While consumers might not interact directly with Microsoft, Azure datacenters host a lot of content from third-party providers in the entertainment media space, including the telecoms providing residential broadband, as well as those planning for high-speed fixed 5G networks.

A different story for server-based computing

At consumer level Windows may disappear without people noticing or missing it too much. It may stay in some PCs, but nobody cares (or even knows) how the smart-devices around the house (like washing-machine or refrigerator) are communicating with their producer servers.

At companies level Windows will remain easily for the next decade. There are too many servers using Windows in enterprise data centers or even in the public and private clouds for IaaS (infrastructure as a service). Also the market share of Windows version is showing that it is not possible to change everything too soon.

While Win 10 is on the lead with a 46.07 percent market share, Win 7 is right behind with 40.08 percent, followed by Win 8.1 with 7.93 percent, Win XP with 3.18 percent, Win 8 with 2.05 percent and Win Vista with 0.61 percent. These are over 17 years old operating system, still in use as the companies are keen on using whatever software they have and it can still works before investing in new technology.

Of course, there will be people, like me, not willing to change the old laptop with a local operating system (being that Windows or MacOS), so they will stay as long as possible with the current technology. But overall, Windows is turning to the last part of its life. An operating system that started over 30 years ago and it’s entering in his last 10 years or so.

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