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How Windows 10 can turn the page on Windows 8 problems

Microsoft was off target with Windows 8, but it can still recover by pushing the concept of Windows 10 mobile devices that integrate fluidly with desktop systems.

It's safe to say that, by any standard of measurement, Windows 8 flopped. Now, Microsoft is trying to correct its enterprise course with new features in Windows 10, including better integrating mobility with existing desktop systems.

Windows 8 introduced a lot of new and forward-thinking ideas, but it also created quite a mess of confusion for consumers and enterprise IT departments alike. Was Windows now a touch operating system? Is the Start menu gone for good? Many people felt the OS was trying to be everything to everybody and went in too many directions at once.

With the release of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, you may be asking yourself: Can Windows 10 succeed in the enterprise where Windows 8 failed? A comparison of Windows 10 vs. Windows 8 indicates that the answer is an emphatic "Yes it can, and it probably will."

To start off, let's take a look at some Windows 8 problems: It introduced a mobile, touch-enabled interface to a conventional system. It broke away from what IT and users were familiar with, and smartphone and tablet hardware wasn't ready to take advantage of Windows 8's features. Plus, it was horribly marketed.

With Windows 10, Microsoft will need to acknowledge where it came from. That means evolving its core products rather than attempting to revolutionize the mobile landscape, by combining mobility features more seamlessly with its existing enterprise desktop ecosystem. But to make an even bigger dent in the enterprise, Windows 10 has to win over more end users.

Here are five things Microsoft needs to do to make sure Windows 10 gets the enterprise mobility crowd on board.

Acknowledge Microsoft's core identity

Microsoft makes the most of its money by providing a tremendous amount of backward compatibility with legacy desktop programs -- meaning companies can still use their data and user interfaces from older systems -- while also making consistent updates to the operating system.

When Microsoft has tried to be visionary, it's flopped (think Millennium, Vista and Windows 8). When it focuses on creating incremental improvements and helping the average person's user experience remain familiar, it's been successful.

Microsoft needs to focus on evolution, not on leading the mobility revolution. Windows is not a place for thought leadership; it's a place for providing a stable and consistent experience across millions of systems, and there's still plenty of value in that.

Aim at the enterprise audience

Corporations are slow to adopt new technology. One of the reasons many organizations haven't standardized on Apple is because it isn't nearly as versatile as Windows. Despite the company adding a variety of management features over the last several years, enterprises have shown that they're not ready to bite on Apple uniformity any time soon.

Microsoft should take advantage of this and aim squarely at the enterprise and its users who are responsible for much of Microsoft's revenue stream. Many corporate users have Microsoft laptops and iOS or Google Android mobile devices. If Microsoft succeeds in creating a universal ecosystem of compatible smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and servers, it will be able to offer the same experience across all form factors -- something Apple cannot do. This appeal could influence organizations to direct their IT hardware budgets toward the Microsoft platform.

Clean up the user interface

Windows 10 looks like a very promising step for Microsoft as it attempts to restore its reputation as an enterprise leader.

One of the biggest Windows 8 problems is the user interface. Is it Metro? Modern? Tiles? What exactly are we supposed to call the new Microsoft interface? One thing is clear: It has to go. And the paltry act of conciliation to let users boot directly to the desktop in Windows 8.1 just wasn't enough.

Windows 10 is promising in this respect. Microsoft is reintroducing the Start menu with a view into the conventional menu and the tile-like section. This change to a hybrid view was a wise decision, particularly for people who carry multiple form factors. Seeing the same interface in touchscreen and mouse and keyboard modes, and having both function well, will be immensely helpful and comfortable for users.

Market the daylights out of it

Apple is a huge success among consumers -- and increasingly in the enterprise -- partially because the company is a master at marketing its products. Microsoft hasn't had quite the same success with consumers. Plus, it is working from behind due to Windows 8's poor reputation, and it will need to market Windows 10 early and often. The fact that Windows 10 is finally a single, responsive OS for all platforms is a potential differentiator in the enterprise, and one that Microsoft should drive home.

Microsoft will also need to convince organizations that it understands the mistakes it made in Windows 8. Save the money on the celebrity endorsements and focus on showing enterprises why it's worth switching to Windows 10. Oh, and did I mention Microsoft should push the one-year free upgrade component of it?

Lower priced devices

Microsoft needs to attach Windows 10 to not only high-powered devices, but also devices at lower price points.

Just as the Windows Phone OS has slowly started to penetrate the market because of the low price attached, so too should Windows 10. Consumers won't spend large sums on computing devices any longer, unless it's made by Apple. Microsoft needs to recognize this reality and work with original equipment manufacturers to build low-cost devices that run on Windows 10, while still retaining the Surface tablet as its high-end device.

After comparing Windows 10 vs. Windows 8, Microsoft has a much stronger product in its new OS, and it should use this opportunity as a springboard for a brand revival. So far, Windows 10 looks like a very promising step for Microsoft as it attempts to restore its reputation as an enterprise leader.

Next Steps

Enterprise mobility features in Windows 10

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Start menu to return in Windows 10

Dig Deeper on Microsoft Windows phones and tablets