Posey's Tips & Tricks

What Microsoft Must Do at Ignite

If the company wants Windows 10 to be a success, it's going to need to make a strong argument for the OS in front of its core audience.

This is the time of year when I normally start preparing to attend TechEd. This year, TechEd has been replaced by a new conference: Ignite. Even so, Ignite seems so TechEd-like that I keep catching myself calling it TechEd.

One of the biggest events at TechEd each year is the Microsoft keynote. The keynote always happens first thing on Monday morning (although there were a couple of Sunday night keynotes). The Keynote is usually jam packed with major announcements and cool demos, but I have to confess that last year's keynote left me scratching my head. Maybe it's just me, but the keynote didn't seem to have a distinct flow or any real sense of purpose.

This morning as I booked my travel for Ignite I started thinking about last year's keynote and what I would like to see this year. OK, I have to admit that the thing that I would really like to see more than anything else is a super cool HoloLens demo. But let's forget about HoloLens for a moment and talk about what Microsoft really needs to do at the keynote.

While I don't know the official reason why Microsoft decided to combine several major conferences and use the name Ignite, I am sure that part of the reason has to do with perception. I think that Microsoft is using the new conference with the new name and a keynote featuring its "new" CEO to convince customers that it is a new Microsoft. I think that Microsoft is probably trying to show people that it is serious about cleaning up the aftermath of the Ballmer years and is moving in a new direction. If that is indeed their intent then that is great, but there is something else that Microsoft needs to do to have a successful keynote.

The one thing that will be more important than anything else will be for Microsoft to remember who its audience is. The audience will be made up primarily of Microsoft customers who have plunked down a lot of money to come and learn things that they can't learn anywhere else. That isn't to say that Microsoft should turn the keynote into an educational session, but rather that it needs to remember that the audience is made up of its best customers. Customers who have lingering questions about Windows 10.

With that said, Microsoft needs to design the keynote so that it will inform audience members about upcoming releases, while also definitively answering some of the questions that have been asked time and time again. For example, Microsoft should use the opportunity to clarify once and for all how Windows 10 licensing will work. Yes, they have basically already done that on the Web, but there is a lot of confusion and misinformation with regard to Windows 10 licensing and Ignite would be the perfect opportunity to solidify Microsoft's position.

Another thing that Microsoft needs to do is to create a business case for Windows 10. So far the justification for Windows 10 has gone something like this: Everybody hates Windows 8.1. Windows XP is no longer supported. Windows 7 just reached the end of its mainstream support period. Windows 10 is free (at least for some). Windows 10 is the only logical choice.

While I get the reasoning behind this argument, it quite frankly isn't good enough. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-Windows 10. I am looking forward to the Windows 10 release. The problem is that the justification that has been given for a Windows 10 upgrade fails to address some very real issues. As such, I think there are three fundamental questions that Microsoft needs to address at Ignite:

  1. Upgrading or migrating to a new desktop OS costs money (beyond the licensing costs) and may introduce compatibility problems. Why should an organization abandon operating systems that are working perfectly well for a brand new OS? What new functionality will the new OS give them?
  2. Why is Windows the best choice as a desktop, tablet and phone operating system? What is it that Microsoft does better than competing platforms such as OS X, Linux, etc.?
  3. What is Windows 10 bringing to the table that will help businesses to meet their objectives? There has been a lot of press about the new Start menu, virtual desktops, and other interface enhancements, but these types of discussions make it sound as though Windows 10 is basically just Windows 7 with a fresh coat of paint. There has to be more to it than that. What does Windows 10 do to improve security (the recently announced biometric support is a good start)? What is Microsoft doing to cut power consumption or to reduce hardware resource consumption? Again, there have been some announcements, but they have been relatively quiet.

My point is that Ignite may be the best chance that Microsoft ever gets to build a compelling business case for Windows 10. Personally I think that Windows 10 is going to be a great product, but there has been a long history of great Microsoft products that have been done in by poor marketing or ineffective business strategy. The Ignite keynote needs to be presented in a way that builds excitement for the new operating system while also building an irrefutable business case. That's something that hasn't been done in a long time.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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