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Can Windows 10 save PC sales (and Windows Phone)?

Windows 10 Devices

Now that Windows 10 has been available for several weeks, PC manufacturers will be hoping that Microsoft’s operating system will encourage consumers to splash out on new hardware. The US software giant is also pinning its hopes for mobile on Windows 10, making it easier for developers to create cross-platform, mobile and desktop apps in a single binary, as well as providing tools to more easily port Android and iOS apps to the platform.

In a somewhat stagnant desktop PC & laptop market, Windows 10 could prove to be the catalyst for consumers with older hardware to upgrade.

PC sales and Windows 10…

For anyone who hasn’t used Windows 10 yet, it aims to rectify some of the main complaints levied against Windows 8; such as reinstating the Start Menu, as well as dozens of other enhancements for keyboard and mouse users. It certainly appears that Microsoft has spent a lot of time optimising the experience for whatever input device is being used.

Windows 10 The New Windows 7

Personally, the most productivity-enhancing feature I have found in Windows 10 are the virtual desktops (the equivalent to “spaces” for Mac users). The concept is pretty much the same as on the Mac’s OS X – you can create additional virtual desktops and arrange your apps on any of those as desired, switching between them quickly with the Ctrl + Windows + arrow keys. For me, that was worth the upgrade alone as it means a dual-monitor setup can effectively be used as two, four, six or even more individual displays.

I’ve been using Windows 10 since the first day of release, and despite a few minor niggles (my PC refusing to stay in sleep mode has been the main bugbear, for example), it has been quite painless to use and has been extremely stable – no “blue screen of death” crashes have occurred…yet. But is Windows 10 enough of a reason to buy a new laptop or PC? And what about the mobile side of things?

It’s well known that the desktop and laptop PC market has been in a decline (or at least, slowing growth). The trend was initially attributed to the rise of tablets but that market has also slowed in the last two years. One of the few companies to buck the trend is Apple – the company reported that it sold 4.8 million units of Mac and $6 billion in revenue in the June quarter (Apple’s third quarter 2015). Unit sales of Mac rose 9% year-over-year.

But as far as tablet sales – as you can see they’re not immune from the general downturn, either:

Global Tablet Shipments

While the UK is typical of most developed markets in terms of consumer spending habits, most traditional PC retailers are struggling to convince us to upgrade – after all, we are all increasingly mobile and most people are more likely to purchase a new mobile phone every year than a new desktop.

Despite the fact that PC makers are struggling, some retailers in the UK have seen an uplift in computer sales in recent months. Perhaps surprisingly, supermarket chain Tesco is one of the few to buck the trend and experience rising computer sales. That may be due to more effective marketing, retail footprint and decent offers, as well as the fact that people are probably impulse-buying while browsing the store. To Tesco’s credit, they are making it simpler for consumers to understand what they’re buying, with an online laptop jargon buster for example.

Here’s how previous versions of Windows have stacked up between 2012 and June 2015 in sales:

Global OS Market Share

As far as Windows-based smartphones are concerned, Microsoft cut its losses on its Nokia acquisition and took a write down of $7.6 billion, but still remains firmly committed to the smartphone market, for now. If anything can revive Windows Phone, it’s surely a combination of great new Lumia devices, as well as the features and better cloud syncing that Windows 10 brings.

As far as the original question is concerned, Windows 10 does seem to be a step in the right direction. It’s probably a little to soon to know just yet whether it will actually boost desktop, laptop and Windows Phone sales however…

Are you a Windows 10 user? Does it live up to the hype, and are you tempted to upgrade and buy a new computer/phone to use it with? As always, let us know in the comments below…

By Roland Banks

Roland Banks has been passionate about mobile technology for the past 20 years. He started his career at British Telecom's research division working on collaborative virtual reality environments, before becoming a video streaming specialist at 3 UK where he helped launch some of the world's first mobile video services. More recently he enjoys writing about his obsession, and developing software that helps mobile operators analyse their subscriber data.

Roland has lived in Asia for the past 5 years, and tries to indulge his other passion for riding motorcycles whenever possible.

5 replies on “Can Windows 10 save PC sales (and Windows Phone)?”

I use a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and Nokia Lumia 1520. I installed Windows 10 beta on both and kept using the desktop version, but immediately reverted back to 8 on my phone as it was too buggy. Despite being committed to Microsoft hardware and software I’m not yet convinced by Windows 10. I wasn’t one of the detractors of Windows 8.1 and felt that once you’d made an effort to ‘learn’ it then it was fantastic. However, Windows 10 is different. It’s more immediately attractive and easier to use, but it feels ‘unfinished’. It’s just not ready for release. The Edge browser doesn’t yet support extensions so many new users will try it then reject it, not bothering to return later in the year when it will be more of a finished product. OneDrive is totally broken in Windows 10 as it is hard to move it to a different location on an external drive (the microSD card on a Surface) without which it is useless as if you have limited disk space it forces you to keep your files in the cloud, which is totally impractical given the state of either mobile or wifi which is far from universal. I’ve yet to fix some of the other hardware issues it has created – audio socket no longer works and external display driver won’t work with some projectors. The 1520 is the best phone I’ve ever had, the first I haven’t been itching to replace with something better after 9-12 months. However, I am now eagerly awaiting it’s replacement later this year.

I have to agree with Stuart, so far, for me, Windows 10 is a fail. Yes, it is true Microsoft spent a lot of time and effort on enhancements for keyboard and mouse users; they went entirely too far. What was an elegant combination of a great tablet/touch experience in Windows 8.1 (and easy to get to desktop mode), almost all of that experience is gone and I am now forced to use the mouse and keyboard. The charms are now gone and the ability to swipe right to cycle through apps now shows a kludgy task manager type interface. I was hoping to be able to swipe through both metro and desktop apps, but, no, it’s now a poor experience in my opinion.

There are LOTS of other, unpolished and unfinished pieces. The Mail app in particular is quite buggy as well as the new Edge browser. The Edge browser has lots of problems with web forms; it just refuses to submit posts. In addition, frequently lock up and crashes from both of those critical apps.

Even worse battery life has gone from 7-8 hours to less than 3, which is extremely bad. Overall my Surface Pro 3
is no longer a tablet and is now just a laptop.

In addition to the issues Stuart points out, there are, unfortunately, many more issues that I won’t go into.

I really wanted Windows 10 to be awesome…but so far it’s a big let down. Sadly, I may be switching back to Windows 8.1.

For me, Windows 10 has been a ‘grower’ rather than a ‘show-er’

Initially I experienced many of the frustrations outlined by others below but as I’ve come to understand what the OS is all about I’ve appreciated the common design principles.

I was never really a big tablet user (I did own a couple of the earlier Surfaces including an RT) so I bought a £49 7″ W8.1 tablet and upgraded it to W10.1.

Once I expanded the start menu to full size I had the same, finger-friendly full-screen tiled interface on both Tablet and Desktop modes. Switching between modes is easy and seamless.

When in Desktop mode it soon became apparent that much work has been done to optimise the touch experience; seemingly fiddly text and icons on File Explorer are remarkably easy to select even with my pudgy digits – far easier than Tablet mode on 8.1 where I needed a touch-stylus. Now I’ve set all folder views to large icons I can browse files and folders with ease.

A common (in my case fixed) taskbar means all I really need is to hand all the time and in the same place.

Notifications are really effective, useful and unobtrusive. The notifications pane is universal between modes and although I initially missed the ‘swipe between apps’ feature of 8.1 the task manager on 10.1 is more logical and faster if you have more than three apps open.

I too found the inability to move the OneDrive folder to the SD a major hang up but ‘Photos’ does an excellent job of presenting all my 7 years of photos and I can even view reasonable-quality low-res cached versions when fully offline.

To edit photos I need to be online so the original can be worked on, but even that will change when MS allow OneDrive to be moved to MicroSD.

Most W10.1 tablet users will not be power users and cloud computing like this is fully workable and makes sense for what they need. Power users already own or will gravitate to devices with bigger storage so I don’t see this as a problem in the short term.

As others have said, Outlook is still a bit buggy and Edge needs a bit of polish here and there for power users – it’s fine for the average user as it stands.

Best of all, Windows 10 delivers the average user a unified experience across desktop, laptop, tablet and now smartphone; pretty much everything is in the same place and works the same way between all devices.

W10 is far faster on this crappy little Hipstreet 7″ tablet than 8.1, it doesn’t crash, has over a Gig more free space after installation and is a far more productive device than the seemingly toy-like Kindle Fire we also have in the family.

There IS still much to do, but updates have been coming through quickly and if that cadence is maintained Microsoft could really be on to something here.

Not surprisingly, two of the comments on this site pertain to mobile devices. I can’t comment on that because I haven’t tried it (I’m Android).

As to the desktop, I’d agree with your comments about users and Win 8.1. I was happy with both 8 and 8.1 because I have the ability to learn and understand easily understood OS programs. That said, I like 10 better. There are elements of 8.1 I miss, but overall it’s an improvement. I haven’t noticed the issues with Edge and OneDrive because I don’t use those programs. My biggest issues have been with Bitdefender, which seemingly didn’t know Windows 10 was coming out!

I don’t see Windows 10 driving desktop sales, because it’s too easy (and free) to upgrade old hardware. I have one 8+ year old machine running Win 10 (with an SSD to get acceptable speed).

Getting back to mobile, I could see Win10 driving more mobile sales, but they need to deal with the app issue first. And having access to the Microsoft App store on the desktop isn’t helping, because it lets desktop users know what this situation is with apps.

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