Last week saw Microsoft lift the lid on Windows 10, its next major update due in late 2015.
Aside from the perhaps curious decision to skip the number 9, the most interesting element appears to be a compromise – the functionality of Windows 7 pooled together with the design ethic of Windows 8 (though we're told the OS will adapt to devices, with a Metro-style touch interface automatically triggered for tablets).
So, we asked our Mavens..
What impact will the changes to the Windows platform have for developers, and can Windows 10 ever be a go-to OS for mobile and tablet gamers?
This is minimal. Windows is so far behind the competition in mobile consumer mind share that it would take more than this minor change to disrupt that.
A 20-year veteran of video games and online space, Harry is European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.
A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.
He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.
Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.
Will's right - there's nothing major happening here that would suggest it will change much.
That said, it's important to remember how quickly things can change in this space. It's easy to think that iPhone and Android are now unbeatable, but neither existed seven years ago. People continue to switch handsets every one to two years, and an upgrade cycle like that can allow things to change quickly if someone comes up with a better product at the right price.
I'm not convinced people will get so long-term entrenched in a mobile ecosystem as they have done in a desktop one.
I'm not convinced people will get so long-term entrenched in a mobile ecosystem as they have done in a desktop oneHarry Holmwood
At the moment, few people have expensive software on their mobiles (like, say, they might have Office on their PCs), and the hardware gets replaced often so it's much easier to switch to whatever seems coolest when the time comes around.
The biggest problem I see for Microsoft pushing harder into mobile is just that 'Windows' (and indeed 'Microsoft' to an extent) isn't a brand people associate with desirability.
I no more want a Windows Phone than I want an Excel guitar. The only Microsoft area I see a lot of brand loyalty for is Xbox - although it's being outsold by PS4, the owners and fans of Xbox are pretty vocal in their preference for it, whether because of the games, the service or the brand (or a combination of all three).
From the outside, it looks like Microsoft's convergence strategy wants to make Xbox more Windows than vice versa, and I'm not sure that's the right move for them - Windows will never be cool. I don't think there's an easy answer for them.
I think Windows has a good fighting chance to become the third platform of choice. One store to reach more consumers cross all Windows devices could be interesting for developers.
With such a crowded market I'm actually surprised with so little developers trying stores such as the Windows (Phone) Store to build business.
They might have overall lower volumes, but also far lower competition. As a smaller publisher we are actually quite positive on the volumes we are able to drive on Window Phone.
As others are saying, I don't think that any functional improvements or changes to Microsoft's mobile OS are actually relevant.
Having just looked it up, I was actually somewhat surprised to learn that the consumer device adoption of Windows Phones dropped from 3.4 percent of overall market share in 2013 to just 2.5 percent in 2014 (IDC). My (clearly uninformed) sense was that they were growing somewhat as the devices have improved and their advertising seems to have markedly ramped up.
With such seemingly paltry audience numbers, the attraction to any mobile game developer in a mobile F2P world – where volume is everything – really isn't going to be there. At 2.5 percent of the global audience one would have to question whether it is even worthwhile making the effort to port an existing game to the Windows Store. Are the incremental revenues worth it? There's a side-argument about easier discovery (a lot less competition) but that isn't compelling enough to change a core strategic direction re: priority platforms to be on.
Right now, you are only going to be on the Windows Store if it is very easy to port your game to it and/or if Microsoft gives you tangible support (£€$) to do so. That's nothing to do with desirability of ‘Windows'…it's just basic numbers. You won't monetise a game without lots of players.
That said, with Microsoft's $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's devices and services business and their $2 billion plus investment in acquiring Mojang to get Minecraft you have to think that there is a very powerful desire, an absolute need and significant resources to do whatever it takes for Microsoft to grow its mobile market share.
Re: IDC - worth pointing out, Kevin, that the market share figures are taken from a growing base of smartphone consumers. For example, iOS's share has dropped from 13 percent to 11.7% market share in the same period, but I don't think sales are actually falling.
Microsoft is indeed the third platform of choice, it's just too bad that the third platform of choice only has a 2.5 percent market share.
Microsoft has a ton of momentum that they've built from a couple of decades of almost no competition in the desktop business. As long as they keep doing anything, they will keep moving along at their same Microsoft pace. Windows 10 is the latest step in the pattern that they've developed over the last few product cycles. Try something new, everyone hates it, go back to what works, try something new, everyone hates it, go back to what works. This time it's called Windows 10.
So far they haven't announced anything that is relevant to mobile, it's more about stemming the bleeding they are doing on the desktop side by assuring those customers that they don't have to continue interacting with their desktop like it's a phone.
I used to be a Windows user, I liked it quite a bit, I still use Windows 7 a la parallels and there are certain apps that I can't live without, like Outlook. It's the engineer's operating system (before Windows 8). You can tinker with it, do the same thing 10 different ways, Windows Explorer is better than finder, it's useful.
The people in charge of Microsoft now are more concerned with things of a superficial nature.Dave Castelnuovo
However Microsoft doesn't know how to transition to this new world of desirable product development. They can't create the feeling in consumers that they need to have this latest thing NOW. They used to have people on the team that knew how to do that with J Allard and his team on the Xbox 360 (remember the Courier?) but they created an atmosphere that forced him and people like him to leave.
The people in charge now are more concerned with things of a superficial nature. Some genius thought that calling the next OS Windows 10 and skipping 9 would somehow make an impact. Some genius thinks that a press release about Microsoft opening a flagship store near the Apple flagship store somehow puts Microsoft in the same league as Apple.
I remember when they opened their first Microsoft store and in order to simulate the long lines that Apple enjoys they gave away free Black Keys tickets (almost 0 percent of the people in line gave a crap about what was inside the actual store). So far the Windows 10 announcements haven't highlighted a single feature that makes people salivate.
As far as mobile dev goes. Microsoft is still very unfriendly to small publishers. On order to self-publish, you need to be a certain size, release a certain number of games per year, etc. Of course they have ways that an indie can get a game onto Windows Phone but they make it really hard for indies to take advantage of all the bells and whistles that the platform offers. Their approve process is beyond pain.
Microsoft still has to hit bottom before they can begin to recover. They still have a ways to go before they even hit their Howard Stringer phase much less their Kaz Hirai stage.
Microsoft need to do their homework as soon as possible to play a major role in the mobile game economy. They really need to get rid about all the illegal content, copyright infringement and copycat products in their store.
We are one of the few developers supporting Microsoft with Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 with great games like 1941 Frozen Front, Super Party Sports and Aces of the Luftwaffe. WP8 only has a small market share compared to Android and iOS in the mobile market but as mentioned already the platform is not so crowded and you still can get a significant market share with your titles.
For HandyGames it is already a “go-to” OS.
Consumers really love our products on Windows Phone 8 and we will support Microsoft also with new titles regularly. I am happy to support our millions of gamers on Windows Phones. Will it be the Number1 platform – for sure not. But it will play a bigger role in the near future, if you like it or not.
John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...
Back when I was directly involved in the creation of Java games at Macrospace (now Glu) not only was Nokia the dominant platform, but its developer program was second to none.
What has happened to that part of the organisation? Is there any sense from fellow Mavens working with Microsoft that it retains any understanding of what supporting developers and building an ecosystem is all about, and if they do, how well does it compare to Apple and Google?
Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.
First off, I need to own up that I'm a born again PC Gamer. During Unite in Seattle I bought the top spec Surface Pro 3 and I haven't shut up about it since. At last I can mock all you clone hipster MacBook users... my toy is (at last) better than yours!
Plus, I get to play my Steam games properly with a 360 controller! It feels like the 1984 launch of the Macintosh all over again (who is an individual now!).
I have long felt that Microsoft's goal to become the integrated vertical cross platform OS was a great strategy. I still do. But bringing it to reality has been problematic.
I love Windows 8. I really do. I have enough freedom to make the device do what I want it to do. I don't feel that it's telling me how to work. It wasn't love at first sight. The transition from Metro to desktop views was initially a challenge until I realised this was the Start Menu. That changed everything for me.
But is WinX... sorry Windows 10 the ultimate answer... Have they realised the write once run everywhere dream? Probably not. But the aspirations are right.
There is value using the Windows Phone as a test bed. There is potential for cross-platform (especially through Cloud gaming) development - as long as you remain sensitive to the mode of use of each device.
So what does this mean for mobile? Right now not so much. This is a long term play.
Despite the market share I'm really noticing a rising adoption of Windows Phone. I've also reached the point where my iPad has fallen from being my go-to-gaming device and instead I now use my Surface. Increasingly I'm wanting a fully integrated tech journey. I currently have a Tizen watch, an Android phone, a 10" iPad and a 12" Surface... and have to carry then all with me all the time. If Windows can do a better job by making them all the same stack then I might go for it.
But not quite yet.
We are not porting for money and WP is not huge, but still very viable for us. Maybe it's porting costs are lower for us.
Also excited about Windows 10 thing. No explanation, just words from 'PC master race' gamer.
An innovative and passionate senior marketing leader with a track record over 16 years driving propositions and brand development client-side for leading companies including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Electronic Arts, T-Mobile, Sony, and Canon.
I have of course been following this closely and thought I'd finally jump in and share some useful factual links that I think are helpful.
For a pretty good de-brief of what was actually announced from a developer's point of view, together with links to the preview, check out Kevin Gallow's blog.
Also, for the current store trends check this post out.
I agree with Oscar that while the gaming experience on Surface 3 is excellent. There are also great experiences out there on the new breed of affordable touch laptops. I know first hand that my kids love them.