It is often said that Microsoft alternates between releasing “bad” and “good” versions of Windows, the company’s operating system. Windows XP (good) preceded Windows Vista (bad), which was followed by Windows 7 (good) and Windows 8 (bad).
Windows 10, the latest version of the operating system, has all the hallmarks of being a good version — although it may not be good enough to do everything that Microsoft hoped it would do.
On Wednesday, Microsoft said Windows 10 is now running on 270 million active devices, eight months after the operating system was released to the public. The company said that represented the fastest adoption ever for a new version of Windows, outpacing the rate at which Windows 7 was adopted by 145 percent. Microsoft executives announced the milestone at a conference for developers in San Francisco, where it also revealed plans for a Windows 10 update with new features.
The 270 million number is a reminder that, for all the talk of Microsoft’s fading stature in the technology industry, Windows is still the software that most of the world uses to run its PCs.
The sobering news for Windows 10 is that its success has not significantly shifted the dynamics of the tech industry, in which mobile platforms like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have eclipsed Microsoft’s operating system among software developers hunting for the largest and most engaged audience of users. PC sales have not grown in years, and most analysts don’t expect that to change soon.
To keep interest in Windows 10, Microsoft said Wednesday that it would refresh the software with an update that would connect users with Cortana, the virtual assistant in the operating system, without requiring a PC to be unlocked first. People could then use their PCs like Amazon’s Echo device, which can be summoned to answer questions about the weather and trivia from across the room.
The Windows 10 update will also have an enhancement to a feature called Windows Hello that lets people more securely log into Windows using biometric verification, like facial recognition. The change will allow people to sign into websites and apps with Windows Hello so they don’t have to use passwords.