Memo to Microsoft Windows Team: 5 Simple Requests

What should corporate enterprises demand from Microsoft's (MSFT) next Windows release -- potentially called Windows 9? After some careful thought, After Nines Inc. has boiled down its demand list to five requirements: Start, Simple, Speedy, Secure, Subscription. Here are the details.

While Windows isn't on my mind much these days, I'm certainly aware of Microsoft's enterprise gathering -- scheduled for later today in San Francisco. Pundits like Paul Thurrott (SuperSite for Windows) and Mary Jo Foley (All About Microsoft) will surely offer you the nitty gritty details from the event, where Windows 8's successor will be the topic of discussion.

Windows 8: What Went Wrong?

By now, you likely know about Microsoft's missteps. Somewhere on the path from keyboards and mice to touch computing, the Windows team lost it way. Former CEO Steve Ballmer's preoccupation with multi-touch computing, smart phones, tablets and All Things Apple triggered a bet-the-house strategy on Windows 8. Microsoft has largely lost that bet, and nearly lost the Windows franchise along the way. 

The evidence: Roughly two years after Microsoft launched Windows 8, only about 10 percent of our site visitors actually run the operating system, according to our analytics software.

Waiting on Windows 9 (Or Whatever It Will Be Called)

So how can Microsoft get the next Windows right? Instead of wowing us all with a speech-enabled search engine and other gee-whiz features, I vote for less. Much less. It's time for Microsoft to focus on the 5 S's of software: Start, Simple, Speedy, Secure, Subscription. Here's a closer look at the meaning of each.

1. Start Menu: Of course, make it standard -- front and center.

2. Simple: When you visit, there's only one thing to do: Type a search term into the search window. When you use an iPhone or an iPad, you can always get "home" by clicking the home button. It's nearly idiot proof. Lesson for Microsoft: Instead of bombarding us with animated tiles and the confusing metro interface, just give us a really clean, simple Start screen.

3. Speedy: Microsoft has made progress here. Now, it's time to tell the world about amazing boot times, resume times and shutdown times. In fact, bar your PC and hardware partners from shipping poor-performing systems that don't meet at least a base performance metric (decided by you). That way the user experience is uniformly solid across all partner hardware.

4. Secure: Here again, Microsoft has made progress in recent years. Market that fact. Describe why Windows is the most secure choice for business users and startups. And back it up with facts.

1. Subscription: OK, Microsoft. I'm familiar with cloud and subscription-based pricing. You've largely transitioned Office to that model. Charge me $25 per year for a four-year subscription, then have me renew at the end of four years. Just make sure that you balance all the requirements above with the "cool" features that keep people coming back to renew the subscription. Oh, and one last thing: Simplify the Office subscription, and give me an all-in subscription bundle that keeps Windows and all of your Office applications up to date and functioning smoothly.

Bottom line: Microsoft has done so much right as a company in recent years. The cloud -- from Office 365 to Azure -- comes to mind. Windows, in stark contrast, has lost its way.

Microsoft, you're smart to focus on enterprise customers at today's Windows event. Keep the message -- and the software -- simple.