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Is Microsoft about to shoot itself in the foot (or even its head) with Windows 8?

That's a serious question. I don't claim to have an answer, of course, but I do think the answer very well could be "Yes".

Windows 7, we barely knew thee

Windows 7 was released in October of 2009 and supposedly Windows 8 ("the biggest overhaul since Windows 95", according to some) will be coming out in 2012.

That's just three years - well, six if you count poor Vista as a precursor to Windows 7. To a slightly befuddled consumer who has heard all about the growing pains of Vista and the peripheral and application incompatibilities that still vex Win 7 to at least some degree, it might look like Microsoft is throwing out a botched attempt to replace XP and is trying again with Windows 8. That's not particularly accurate, but it could look that way to a slightly naive user.

But even if it isn't the hasty retreat from Win 7 that it seems to me, untold millions of computer users have never even put their grubby fingers upon a Windows 7 interface as of yet - they are still running XP and probably will still be running XP for years to come. According to NetMarketShare, Windows XP still hangs on to over 50% of desktops.

That's dropped to 17% as of 2015.

Why? Because you don't fix what isn't broken. Windows 7 usually requires new hardware for anything approaching reasonable performance and it also requires adaptation and re-learning for users. Even if the XP hardware is up to snuff for Win 7, Microsoft has stupidly decided to make upgrades both expensive and confusing (Which Windows 7 is right for you?).

Of course I don't know what Windows 8 will cost, but it's a safe bet Microsoft won't be adopting Apple's new $29.99 pricing. Nor is it likely to require any less hardware - given its tablet inspired interface designs, it will likely need even more power.

The tablet issue

Apple is obviously well on its way to a unified tablet/desktop operating system and that unification is exactly what Microsoft is heading for with Windows 8.

But why? Apple obviously has reason to do this: they are selling millions upon millions of tablets. Microsoft is not selling any and although I know that some readers may be wishing for a decent Windows powered tablet, those folks are in a definite minority. Apple owns most of the tablet space and whatever they don't own is solely controlled by Android. Microsoft has little chance to break into that market.

Well, unless you believe that Windows 8 is the magic panacea that will let them do that. Reasonable people may disagree, but I think any savvy bookmaker will post strong odds against Microsoft's chances. Back in May of this year, some optimistic prognosticators thought Microsoft tablets might catch fire, but reality has splashed ice cold water on that. Other folks were a tad more pessimistic (Gartner forecasts 0% market share for Microsoft mobile tablets in 2015). The pessimists seem to be correct.

But Microsoft still is hanging in:Windows forecast to gradually grab tablet market share from iOS and Android

Pinning to a false premise

What's driving the optimists is summed up in this paragraph from What Does Windows 8 Mean to Microsoft? Maybe Everything:


Microsoft hopes to capture a large share of the still-young tablet market, which is largely dominated by Apple. As consumers are accustomed to Windows on their PCs, they would likely embrace Windows 8 on their tablets as well, especially if they can use the same applications and software on their PCs and tablets.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? If you are a Windows enthusiast, this seems to make a lot of sense. If we have device independence unified by a run-anywhere Microsoft operating system, Redmond's success is inevitable.

Except..

People buy tablets for their basic functions: browsing, email, music and pictures. None of that needs a Microsoft operating system. Most other tablet apps are written specifically for tablets - porting traditional Windows apps to a tablet interface is not going to be easy - Ars Technica noted:


But one aspect of the [Windows 8] demonstration has the legions of Windows developers deeply concerned, and with good reason: they were told that all their experience, all their knowledge, and every program they have written in the past would be useless on Windows 8. (Why Microsoft has made developers horrified about coding for Windows 8).

Looking at this rationally from a developers point of view, if you have to retool your skills, why would you retool for the untested OS with the lowest market share of all? It would seem to be smarter to learn the Apple or Android way and forget Microsoft. I'm not saying all developers will make that choice, but it could be a significant percentage.

Of course there is a way to avoid retooling: run your app in the cloud. The problem there is that cloud apps don't need Microsoft at the client end.

Schizophrenia

There's a good article at Infoworld titled Windows 8 tablets: How Microsoft can win this time. They point out one of the other gotchas from the development side, noting that apps will need to be rewritten for Windows 8 tablets and that those apps will also be expected to run on Win 8 desktops:


However, as it appears that Windows 8-based desktops will also be able to run these new apps, developers face a challenge that iOS developers do not: having the same app work across the two very different contexts of tablets and PCs. That could lead to poorly chosen compromises or apps that fit poorly on one platform or the other. Microsoft will need to provide the tools -- and perhaps some incentives or penalties -- for developers who choose unwisely.

Note that Apple does NOT expect IOS apps to run on its desktops. Microsoft is taking a big gulp of food here, and may find it hard to chew.

Tie it all up with a ribbon

So far, the overall picture isn't smooth sailing for Microsoft. However, we haven't seen what Windows 8 has to offer, have we? There could be killer features in Win 8 that leave Apple and Android lying stunned and impotent in its wake.

Sure, that could be. At least one Win 8 feature certainly does leave me stunned, though perhaps not in the way Microsoft intended. I'm speaking of the new Ribbon interface for their flagship apps.

Win 8 ribbon interface

As one reviewer put it, "Microsoft UI has officially entered the realm of self-parody". If this is the innovation that would cause people to camp out overnight to get their hands on the first release of Windows 8, I'll eat an Android tablet for breakfast. Well, no, that might be a lot to stomach, but you get the idea. It's retrograde, it looks primitive, it's ugly - what were they thinking?

I'll put the odds against them

I expressed similar sentiments to a Microsoft fan last week. He chuckled a little and opined "Microsoft is too big to fail".

Yeah. They do have a lot of free cash and it will take extraordinary incompetence and fumbling to use that up. Yet it seems to me like Windows 8 could be a good start at draining away at least some of that cash advantage.

I'm reminded of other folks who were too powerful to lose their market power and position: IBM, Wang, DEC.. but, yeah, Microsoft is different, right?

Of course they are.



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© Anthony Lawrence







Wed Apr 8 09:40:48 2015: 3142   TonyLawrence

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And now it seems all hopes are pinned on Windows 10.





Mon Sep 12 15:12:48 2011: 9818   Ralph

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On Friday morning my laptop (nearly) died. Well not exactly but the fan error I got convinced me that it is time to get a new one. I asked my hardware specialist to get me a new laptop without windows and after some serious research he got back to me with the news he could not get the type I wanted without windows. I know I could hunt for a different model, but that's not what I want. As long as we continue to have this kind of monopoly Microsoft will be able to stuff us with any crap they'll develop.



Thu Sep 15 22:17:10 2011: 9850   NickBarron

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Perhaps..



But that is an ever diminishing amount of money in a smaller and smaller monopoly.



It has been such a long time since Microsoft put together some really good products. I have been thinking and muttering it for a long time. I think the writing is on the wall for them, they are living of borrowed time and money.



Innovate or die as the world moves past you.



Sat Sep 17 04:24:40 2011: 9860   Luke

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"Windows 7 usually requires new hardware for anything approaching reasonable performance and it also requires adaptation and re-learning for users."

Absolute rubbish. Decent XP era machines usually can take 2-3gb of memory. My brother is running Windows 7 on a Athlon XP 1400+, after an inexpensive ram upgrade to 2gb.

I have a Dell D430 from 2006? It has a 1.2ghz processor and 2gb of ram ... Runs Windows 7, VS2010 and SQL Server Management Studio.

My machine desktop machine built in 2007 gets a WEI of 6.3.



Sat Sep 17 11:19:47 2011: 9862   TonyLawrence

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Well, Luke, there is old hardware and there is old hardware. There are also expectations, and different folks have different ideas about what performance should be.



Fri Sep 30 21:51:29 2011: 9882   RonCam

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What if it's Windows 7 with a warmed-over explorer.exe? Ha-ha. Anything to get another ~$200 out of the suckers, who want the retail version.

But really, would anyone know? The reviews generally concentrate 100% on appearances, with little attention to what's new (or old) 'under the hood'.

I read in one review that it reverts to a traditional GUI without too much trouble.

P.S.: very nice articles, here.
Will browse more, once my 'mount --bind' problem is under control!

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