Building an operating system that works for emerging markets, Lessons from Nigeria that shaped Windows 10

Jun 26, 2019

What is it like building an operating system for the world? Microsoft Windows Insider chief, Dona Sarkar talks about how diversity helps in the development of the Windows operating system. Sharing how the development team builds an operating system that works for emerging markets like Africa thriving on diversity.

Dona was talking to Mark Smith (nz365guy), about Building a Tech Community: Windows Insider Program on his podacst.

Knowing how people use tech in the world is how we grow and build better products.

Dona Sarkar

Lessons from Nigeria that shaped Windows 10 for emerging markets

Dona talks passionately about how she appreciates diversity in a corporate team. “I appreciate diversity of experience and diversity of background really helps. What people who are diverse bring to the table is open mindedness.”

As someone who helps in building a global product, she says she will have only a specific point of view sitting in Redmond. “I think we need a global thinking. How do people use tech all around the world. What more should we build and invest in.”

Knowing how people use tech in the world is how we[Microsoft] grow and build better products, Dona says.

About three years ago we realized we know very little about how to build a windows that works well in emerging markets. Especially for places where electricity and good wifi is not a given.

So we choose Lagos, Nigeria because there’s are a hundred and eighty million people there. They love technology, they use it all the time but the infrastructure is not quite as reliable as it might be in Redmond.

When we were there i was trying to install insider builds, have skype calls and podcast and it was challenging. We had rolling blackouts everyday, wifi was extremely slow and spotty. The expense of having wireless connectivity is way higher.

We realized having the ability to have longer battery life is extremely important. Having devices that work on cellular like our Windows on ARM PCs is extremely important compared to always relying on wifi. The ability to have a windows download size that’s not 3GB but maybe 2GB is extremely important.

A 2G network on Microsoft campus

We had these realizations only after spending time in Nigeria – with Nigerian Fellows of the Insiders4Good Program – says Dona Sarkar. The “experiences in Nigeria had a wider impact on the company’s development practices. We’re fundamentally changing the way we develop Windows.” Dona says they built a 2G network on Redmond campus to simulate the conditions under which users in ‘occasionally connected’ markets have to use their devices.

Dona and the Windows development team are making Windows better with the help of a diverse Insider community. A community of people across the world who help test pre-relase Windows builds and provide feedback.

Click to visit podcast page and listen to the full conversation with Mark.