Playing the Wrong Hand
With Windows 8
THE PC IS DEFINITELY NOT DEAD FOR MICROSOFT (and it won’t be for a long, long time), but Windows 8 might hasten its decline. On a tablet that properly supports Windows 8, the beta version of the operating system shows the careful thought that Microsoft
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put into its design. It supports more elaborate
gestures than other tablet operating systems.
There’s also a cool sidebar feature that lets you
work on two apps at the same time. Some of the
apps that Microsoft is creating for Windows 8 are
a little too simplistic for my taste, and the library
of third-party Windows Phone 7/8 apps has a long
way to go, but I’m impressed with the design of
Windows 8 on tablets.
But with Windows 8, the medium is the
message. Put the same Consumer Preview of
Windows 8 on a desktop PC and the experience
takes a step backward from Windows 7. It looks
like the baby blocks of operating systems. Placing
the Start button in a cloak of invisibility isn’t a
smart move. It shouldn’t be difficult for Microsoft
to display the Start button on desktops while not
displaying it on tablets; I hope the company recti-fies that before launch. Why relegate 17 years of
common desktop user experience to the trash can?
It’s reminiscent of the Ribbon in Microsoft Office.
Will Windows 8 be successful on the desktop? Of
course. People like to snicker about Windows Vista,
but according to Net Applications, Vista has a larger
market share (about 7%) than the combined share
of the two most widely used versions of OS X, Lion
and Snow Leopard. With the huge installed base
and OEM support that Windows has, Microsoft
prints money with every operating system release.
Even so, Microsoft is gambling its reputation with Windows 8. The question is whether
consumers will be happy with it; enterprise buyers
have little incentive to upgrade over the short run.
Many are quite happy with Windows 7. Think of
how long XP lasted.
That means that for the next couple of years,
Windows will be a tablet operating system that secondarily targets consumer PCs. Microsoft is playing
catch-up again, this time in mobile computing, but
no technology company plays that game better. It
also manages its platform with ISVs, IHVs, OEMs
and customers better than any other tech company.
Nonetheless, on the desktop, Windows 8 is going to
be a leap of faith that many may not take.
Here’s why that should matter to Microsoft.
Tablets are selling like hotcakes, right? Yes, but
when you compare the tablet market and the PC
market, the latter is quite a bit larger. Forrester
says that two-thirds of the smartphones, tablets
and PCs used in business are running some form
of Windows. The vast majority of those are PCs.
Although Forrester expects that figure to drop
to 50% by 2016 as iOS and Android continue to
rise, Microsoft can’t afford to abandon its huge
installed base of Windows PCs in its zeal to play
catch-up on mobile.
Plus, Windows 8 tablets have a steep road to
climb. An IDC report predicts that Windows
Phone will have a 20% share of smartphone
shipments in 2016. The same report predicts that
iOS will also have 20% of the shipments and that
Android will have 47%.
So Microsoft is going all in with Windows 8 in
a tablet market it can’t dominate, while putting
its cash-cow desktop operating system business at
risk. That doesn’t seem like a winning hand. u