Microsoft’s Terry Myerson spoke at the Worldwide Partner Conference keynote yesterday, and as you might expect, his presentation focused largely on Windows 10. But as a Windows phone fan, I was most interested in what he said—or didn’t say—about this beleaguered platform.
So let’s address the elephant in the room first.
It’s pretty clear that my take on Microsoft’s smart phone moves has been perceived by many as being negative or at least overly-fatalistic. I don’t see it this way, obviously. In fact, I think the warning signs have been there for Windows phones for years. But I do spend an inordinate amount of time parsing what Microsoft says, and regardless of your take on my Windows phone opinions, you may find this mini-assessment of Mr. Myerson’s phone comments of interest. This is especially true as some see Myerson’s comments yesterday to be some kind of indication that Microsoft has recommitted itself to smart phones.
He did not do that.
Myerson did utter a version of the word “phone” 25 times during his bit at the WPC keynote. He repeatedly mentioned phone as a component of the Windows 10 device lineup—”the Internet of Things, on phones, tablets, PCs, Surface Hub and HoloLens,” for example—and there was a major Windows phone demonstration during his speech. These collectively indicate to me that Microsoft is trying to at least soften the blow of last week’s bad news.
My big takeaway, however, is that Myerson simply corroborated my belief that Microsoft’s short-term goal with Windows phone is to find some niche in which this platform can provide a unique and valuable differentiator for the short term: Continuum, a way to turn your phone into a PC. There was a lengthy Continuum demo that should excite the fans of this platform.
What Myerson didn’t do was say anything new about flagships. “Last week, we announced the focusing of our Lumia lineup,” he said. “But let me be clear, soon you will see premium new Lumias designed for Windows 10.” This was met by applause, even though we already knew this. And he was the only Microsoft executive to even utter the word “Lumia” during the entire WPC keynote on Monday. Several mentioned Surface, by comparison.
Long story short, I don’t feel WPC did a thing to change the picture I’ve presented about the future of Windows phones. We’re going to get at least two new flagship devices this year, Microsoft will make fewer and better-targeted handsets, and the firm has no intention of growing this business.
Again. We already knew all that.
As for Windows 10, Myerson didn’t make any major new announcements—I assume at least some people were semi-expecting an RTM announcement at WPC, and given that the original plan was for RTM last week, things are indeed coming down to the wire.
Myerson did discuss the Windows 10 launch plans, highlighting of course the role that partners can play in “upgrading the world.” He stated that Windows 10 was Microsoft’s first step towards achieving Satya Nadella’s vision for “More Personal Computing.” And he said that the mobility of experiences—a phrase that is starting to trigger Manchurian Candidate-like responses in Windows phone fans—would “bring natural interactions to all aspects of the system, and enabling them for our platform developers to add to their applications, and having the platform enforce and respect your privacy in a way that earns your trust.”
Nothing he said would be considered news to readers of this site, or to the generally informed. He played to the home crowd (the show is in Florida) and the audience (partners), and he ran through a number of useful Windows 10 features, as you’d expect. He touted the feedback Microsoft actually listened to, a big change from the Windows 7-8 era. And he talked up universal apps and their applicability across hardware device types. There was yet another HoloLens demo.
But there was also some interesting information about Windows 10 security features in particular.
Myerson said that Microsoft has designed security into the core of Windows 10, which takes “a three-dimensional approach to security” with identity protection, credential cache protection, and storage protection features.
“Virtual Secure Mode isolates all of the credential storage using the silicon virtualization extension,” he said. “So you can think about if you trust the isolation of virtual machines in the cloud, if you trust the isolation of virtual machines on Windows or on any of the modern silicon, this is the isolation which is isolating the credential cache in Windows 10. So if a hacker gets into a system, they’re not going to have access to the credentials to traverse the network and pass the hack anymore, unless they actually now crack the silicon in a deep and fundamental way.”
After a short bit on Secure Boot and Device Guard, Myerson talked about Microsoft’s commitment to keep Windows 10 devices up to date.
“Windows is the only platform with a commitment to release ongoing security updates for the supported lifetime of the device,” he said. “We follow up on every reported issue. We continuously test with leading-edge techniques. We proactively update supported devices with updates.”
For consumers, this means “a new approach” called Windows as a Service. Instead of requiring users to update their PCs on Patch Tuesday each month, Microsoft is introducing a new system of update “rings” with both fast (instant) updating and slow updating options.
For business users, Microsoft has previously announced Windows Update for Business, which lets IT organizations determine which update rings their user groups belong to. Microsoft will operate Windows Update for Business for free, Myerson said, something that should ease adoption nicely.
For enterprises, Microsoft is providing a Long Term Servicing Branch that is designed for mission-critical devices. “These are devices where end users aren’t using them every day for productivity or creativity, but they’re on factory floors, they’re industrial devices,” Myerson said. “These devices you’re not looking for new features, you’re looking for only security updates.”
Overall, there were no real surprises, no real news. And it’s too bad that Myerson wasn’t able to proudly declare that Windows 10 was “done” and heading off to PC makers in anticipation of the July 29 launch. That would have made the WPC keynote a real celebration.
Maybe we’ll hear something in the next day or two.