Microsoft doesn't just want you to use its products. It wants you to love them.
In a lengthy presentation streamed live over the Web on Wednesday, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said multiple times that he not only wants consumers to choose Microsoft products, but to " "love Windows on a daily basis." From start to finish, the company took pains to show it was turning a page and eager to show that it, too, can innovate and possibly even inspire the kind of cult-like following that its competitors Apple and Google enjoy.
To that end, executives showed off half a dozen new products, ranging from the practical -- its latest operating system, Windows 10 -- to the fantastic -- a headset with a see-through display that overlays holographic objects you can manipulate in the real world. Microsoft's take on smartglasses, the "Microsoft Hololens," does not yet have a firm release date. But it will be released within the lifetime of Windows 10, said inventor Alex Kipman, and will not need to be paired with a phone to work.
"These are the kinds of magical moments that we live for," Nadella said while onstage at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. "We want to move people from needing Windows, to choosing Windows to loving Windows."
It's a smart bit of recasting for the company, said Al Hilwa, an analyst at International Data Corporation. "They realize that, in the new consumer world, the dynamic is different," he said. "They're showing a vulnerable face deliberately. They're asking for love."
One way to ramp up the affection, of course, is to give out freebies. Microsoft said it will offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade to anyone running Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices. Those running Windows 7 will also be eligible for the deal, for a year.
The new system fixes several things that Microsoft users hated about the company's previous operating system, Windows 8. The new system will work more easily across computers, tablets and mobile device. It's touchscreen-friendly, while eliminating much of the clunky layout that plagued Windows 8.
The system doesn't completely abandon Windows 8's distinctive, blocky layouts -- users can opt for a start screen that keeps the tiled, cluttered layout that many people dislike -- but it also lets users chose a more traditional Windows background. Windows 10 touchscreen devices will be able to sense when a user plugs in a keyboard and mouse and will then switch automatically to a more traditional layout.
Windows 10 is also deeply integrated with Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant, which will be able to tell users the weather, compose e-mails by dictation and control users' music playlists across devices. The company also showed off a new, forthcoming Web browser -- codenamed "Spartan" -- that works with Cortana and has new reading and note-taking modes.
Windows 10 also works with Microsoft's gaming console, the Xbox One, and an Xbox app will come standard on all devices. The new system will also allow players to stream their games to tablets and PCs within their homes. Console players and PC players will be able to fight it out across platforms.
Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the operating systems group, said that the company is developing several apps that will work seamlessly across Microsoft computers, tablets, phones and the Xbox One.
All of Wednesday's announcements support Nadella's vision for a unified Microsoft focused on a "mobile-first, cloud-first" strategy across its many divisions. That's been Nadella's guiding tenet since he took over the top spot last February.
And it appears the strategy is working -- at least within Microsoft.
"Bringing all the different assets into one tightly knit set of capabilities and devices is what they have to do," Hilwa said, "and it looks like they're doing it."
The real test, of course, will be how consumers react when the new system is officially released. Microsoft didn't give a release date for Windows 10, but did say it will release a new version to those in its "Insider" program next week and will send the first early build to phones in February.