7 things Satya Nadella and Bill Gates need to do to fix Windows

So the rumor on the street is that Satya Nadella will be the next CEO of Microsoft. If this is true I will be psyched because I predicted that he would be the best person for the job for a lot of reasons.

The other (newer) rumor is that Bill Gates and Satya Nadella will be collaborating on solving technical problems within the company. This is also (if true) fantastic news.

The quote from recode.net is:

There is obviously a lot to unpack here. But, according to a number of sources inside the company, the possible move — it is still not a done deal, although it seems likelier than not — is predicated on the fact that Gates will be spending a lot more time at the company once Nadella is approvedRe/code had previously reported this Bill-is-back notion.

Sources said that Nadella has asked Gates to do so, helping specifically with technology and product problems, and the pair have been scoping out what that would mean and how much time such an arrangement would take.

That sounds like swell news.

The biggest technology and product problem Microsoft faces today is……., well yeah you guessed it.


Now in an article I wrote last week, one that most of you slammed me on, I said the following:

Windows is a big deal and the next CEO will have to roll up their sleeves and get into the weeds on this one. The last time a CEO entrusted Windows to an exec (Sinofsky), that executive broke it. I believe no other executive will ever have such control over the Windows vision again.

I am patting myself on the back right now. Pretty obvious but it sounds like Satya has the right gameplan even before he becomes CEO. He’ll need Steve to bless any major changes he decides to make to Windows, the most used software application on earth.

More unsolicited advice from me – here are 7 things Satya Nadella and Bill Gates need to do to fix Windows.

Start with user/enterprise feedback


This one is simple. Windows has missed the mark and it’s going to require understanding how and why this happened.

Now Microsoft did a great job of releasing several Beta versions of Windows 8 before it was released. Millions of people got a chance to play around with the Operating System before it was released but as I’ve said before, the MAJOR items were all flagged by the user community and ignored by the software company.

You don’t even have to take my word for it. This blog is pretty much a living diary of the evolution of Windows since it started in 2009. If you do a search, you can see all the responses to the Windows Betas and Consumer Previews. On almost every issue that has been a problem (Start Menu, Metro etc) you can tell by the comments that problems were coming.

Bottom line is, take the feedback seriously this time.

Windows needs to be two distinct and separate Operating Systems

Apple Separate OS'es

Apple Separate OS’es

One of the proudest days for this blog was when Steven Sinofsky called out an article I had written and said he disagreed with my contention that Windows needed to have a separate UI and OS for tablets.

We had finally arrived!

Now, several years later with the benefit of hindsight, I’m pretty sure I’m right.

I actually think a lot of the hubbub over this OS would have been avoided if people had a choice. Windows 8 and Metro is primarily designed for mobile devices. Someone who wanted a mobile OS would have complained less because it’s actually a neat way of navigating around Windows in a mobile fashion.

If you want to do that.

This OS got into trouble because desktop users revolted. If they had a refined version of Windows that was an evolution of Windows 7, it would have been fine and Microsoft would have had the breathing room to refine the Metro environment.

Worked well enough for Apple yes?

That leads to

Better thought around SKU’s

Microsoft SKUs

SKU is an acronym for Stock Keeping Unit.

An SKU is a distinct item, such as a product or service, as it is offered for sale that embodies all attributes associated with the item and that distinguish it from all other items.

So Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise would be separate SKU’s.

In light of rethinking the architecture and maybe separating different types of Operating Systems, this would be a good time to re-examine the current SKU lines and see if they still work.

An excellent read and a preview of what Microsoft may be doing is Mary Jo Foley and her article on Microsoft, One Core, Many SKU’s.

At least we know Microsoft is thinking this through carefully.

Figure out Windows pricing

This one’s simple. Windows needs to be closer to FREE than $119 or $199. Microsoft could charge Enterprise users more for Windows but justify it by:

Better Back Office Integration

The part of the business that works for Microsoft is the Enterprise. Microsoft has an iron clad grip on the Enterprise and has done a solid job in delivering value with software and services to that segment.

The challenge now is to even more tightly integrate Windows into the Cloud, Office, SQL Server etc and make it a must have for businesses. We know what part of the business works for Microsoft, now they need to rinse and repeat.

Rethink the User Interface

Windows 7 was fantastic but from a UI perspective is long in the tooth.

Take a look at some of the pictures of the OS since Windows 2000 and you can see that it’s basically looked the same.


It’s time to freshen up Windows and take some risks a la Apple iOS 7. The iPhone and iPad OS’es look very different then they did before but it doesn’t take that long to get back up in the saddle again.

Windows needs to look new but feel the same and that’s not easy task. I’ve said it before, Innovation is hard!

I will say this though, there are tons of fantastic OS concepts for Windows in places on the web like DeviantArt.com. Microsoft should have some of the most creative designers on earth (God knows the company has the money).

Time to think a little different?

Finally and this is the biggest one:

Push forward not backwards


This is where I get to rant a little so excuse me in advance.

My articles about Microsoft have been more and more negative recently and I received a lot of reader feedback about it. Trolls and light thinkers ran to the refuge of simpletons – that I was an Apple fan and root for Apple.

I am an Apple fan but the truth is a little more complicated. This site is the most comprehensive Windows site on the web. It’s almost 5 years old, has 7500+ posts (most of which I wrote) and over 16,000 comments.

Make no mistake, it has been hard work and I am extremely proud of what the end result is – a real, living, breathing archive showing the evolution of Windows.

I didn’t do this for Ubuntu or for Apple’s OS X. I built this for Windows.

I was extremely excited about the possibilities of Windows 8 and am still excited about Windows 9 but I will continue to call a spade a spade. It didn’t work and Microsoft has to do better – period.

Now when an OS has troubles like this, the natural reaction for a company like Microsoft is to retreat. Head backwards and  acquiesce to the loudest voices. To be honest, there are times when this strategy might be called for.

Windows 9 is not one of those times.

Microsoft need to charge on and takes risks with the next version of Windows because being timid would be quiet suicide. The company is doing so well financially that they actually do have some leeway to take more risks with Windows 9.

Calculated risks.

I think Windows 9 could turn this whole thing around but it will take boldness and strategic vision by both Satya Nadella and Bill Gates. They will need to start from scratch and rethink the entire value proposition of the Windows Franchise. There should be painful decisions and blood, sweat and tears.

They need to push their UI designers and engineers harder than they have ever been pushed and when they are burned out, push them harder.

The bottom line is, they will need to rethink Windows from the top to bottom but in fairness, they will have a MAJOR advantage this time……they’ll know what doesn’t work.

That’s it for me, tell me what you think. Use the comments below.

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