8 Questions For Windows 8

by John Kirk   |   September 13th, 2012

“Make no mistake about it, this is the year for Windows,” ~ Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer

Microsoft CEO, Steve Balmer, has declared this “The Year For Windows”. Is he right? Or is that just wishful thinking on his part? Let’s ask ourselves a couple of pertinent questions and see if we can suss this out.

Question #1: Is The Nokia Hardware Special Enough To Kickstart Windows 8?

First, some analysts don’t seem to think so:

“Microsoft still needs to jump start their mobile business,” UBS analyst Brent Thill told MarketWatch. “I’m not sure Nokia is their battery.”

Second, the markets don’t seem to think so either as Nokia’s shares slumped after the announcement of the Lumia 920.

Third, in the short term, the Nokia Lumia 920 is a non-entity. With no price, no ship date and no working models, it’s more vaporware than savior.

Fourth, and most importantly, when it comes to platforms, hardware – even if it’s the best hardware – is not going to be the deciding factor. Remember Betamax v. VHS? Remember the Mac v. the PC? Having the best hardware is a good thing but it’s far from being the DECISIVE thing.

When it comes to computing platforms, developers – not hardware – is where the value is. Hardware is important. Developers are crucial. The Nokia hardware – vaporware though it is – holds great promise. But it’s just an empty promise without Windows 8 platform developers.

Asking Nokia hardware – no matter how good it may be – to save a platform is like asking a swimmer to save a sinking ship. It’s not going to happen.

Nokia’s hardware can’t save Windows 8. It’s the other way around. Windows 8 has to be a success for Nokia’s phones to even stand a chance.

Question #2: Will the “Re-imagined” Microsoft Windows Help Sales Of The Windows Operating System?

“We have re-imagined Windows from the ground up.” ~ Steve Ballmer

It’s true enough that Microsoft has re-imagined Windows from the ground up. But is that a good thing? There are, in my opinion, at least three issues with the “re-imagined” Windows 8.

First, Windows 8 is a wholly unfamiliar user interface and people hate the unfamiliar. This may well slow adoption. Ultimately, I think this understandable reluctance on the part of the consumer can be overcome. Windows 8 may be an acquired taste but, in time, people will get used to it and their initial reluctance to try the operating system will fade and be forgotten.

Second, while Windows 8 for the phone and for Windows RT appear to be wholly consistent user interfaces, Windows 8 for the Intel tablet, notebook and desktop subject their users to two completely different computing experiences.

Advocates of Windows 8 say that this is the best of both worlds. Microsoft argues that “Windows 8 brings together all the power and flexibility you have in your PC today with the ability to immerse yourself in a Metro style experience.”

Critics, however, say that it is not the best of both worlds but an unfortunate collision of two worlds – a disconnected, disjointed and disconcerting experience – a Jekyll and Hyde existence – a computing environment that subjects it’s user to a brain tax at every switch between the desktop and the tablet metaphors.

Who is right? And will this matter in the long run? Today’s partisan rhetoric is so heated that it is almost impossible to tell what is subjective and what is objective. We’ll just have to wait and allow the more casual users to give us the final verdict on this question in their own time.

Third, I think that Microsoft is “re-imagining” Windows for the wrong reasons. Microsoft is not really “re-imagining” Windows so much as they’re hoping to “re-educate” their existing Windows user base. Their goal isn’t to create the best user experience, optimized to the form factor they are using. Far from it.

Microsoft’s goal is to familiarize their desktop users with the “formerly-known-as-Metro” user interface, in the hope that familiarity will breed adoption of their Windows phone, Windows RT and Windows Tablet offerings. This explains why the Windows desktop operating system incorporates so many unnecessary and counter-productive tablet elements.

The “re-imagined” Windows isn’t about what the end user needs, it’s about what Microsoft needs. The end user needs a great user experience. Microsoft needs to have Windows 8 running on every form factor. When the two come into conflict, Microsoft has sacrificed the former in the hopes of achieving the latter.

Achieving a great user experience is hard enough when you’re really, really trying. It’s nigh on impossible to achieve when it is not your primary objective.

Question #3: Will Moving Windows Phone 8 To the Windows Kernel Give Microsoft An Advantage?

Moving Windows 8 Phone to run on the Windows 8 kernel will most certainly make it easier for developers to port their apps between Windows smartphones, tablets and desktops. However, Apple has been running both iOS and OS X on the same kernel since 2008. Android doesn’t even have a divided operating system to begin with.

Moving Windows 8 phone to the Windows 8 kernel is a good move – heck, it’s a great move. But it hardly gives Windows an advantage. It’s more a case of Microsoft finally catching up…after being a full four years behind.

Question #4: Will Microsoft’s Unified Platform Give Them An Edge Over The Competition?

“Perhaps more importantly than anything else, we bring a developer platform and a store that’s common to both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8,” ~ Steve Ballmer

Is Steve Ballmer seriously calling Windows 8 a “common” developer platform?

Windows 8 has a common name. And it has a common initial appearance. But the operation of Windows Phone 8, Windows RT and Windows 8 for tablets, notebooks and desktops is not at all the same. And the code base is not at all the same. And the applications are not at all the same.

Windows 8 is, in fact, three wholly separate, three wholly incompatible, operating systems. And just because Steve Ballmer insist’s on CALLING the three different operating systems by the same name doesn’t make them a “common” platform. Not by a long shot.

Microsoft is pursuing a strategy of taking three wholly different platforms, giving them similar names and similar initial user interfaces and hoping against hope that consumers won’t notice and will consider them to be one and the same thing. This may work in the short run but in the long run it’s bound to create consumer confusion and frustration as users discover that the Apps they have purchased to run on one “Windows” platform won’t run on other “Windows” platforms.

Developers – God bless ‘em – won’t be fooled at all. They’ll well know that they have to develop three different versions of the same program no matter how closely the three platforms are named or how closely the three platforms resemble one another in appearance.

Is Windows 8 a “common” developer platform? Not hardly.

Question #5: Will Developers Flock To Windows 8?

“Those devices running Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, I’m quite sure, represent the biggest single opportunity available for software developers today. Four hundred million per year is unrivaled. I’ll bet you that the next app developer to hit it really, really big will be a developer on Windows.” ~ Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer is betting that the next app developer to hit it really, really, big will be on Windows. I’m betting that he’s really, really wrong.

Why? When was the last time you heard of something “hot” being developed for Windows? The platform is stagnant and all the action is taking place in mobile.

“That means Lumia … that means Surface … devices introduced in Berlin last week … those devices I’m quite sure represent the largest single opportunity for developers today,” ~ Steve Ballmer

Yeah, only here’s the thing. The developer developing for the Lumia; the developer developing for the Surface, the developer developing for the Windows 8 desktop; that developer will be creating THREE, not one, programs running on THREE separate, look-alike platforms.

Developers don’t care what a platform is called or what it looks like. They have to write the actual code and they will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are writing for three platforms, not one supposedly monolithic platform.

Question #6: Will there be 400 million new devices running the Windows Operating System one year from now?

“One year from now, between Windows phones, Windows tablets and Windows PCs, we’ll see close to … 400 million new devices running those new operating systems.” ~ Steve Ballmer

400 million is one very big number and a nice benchmark by which to measure Windows’ progress. But given the size of the existing Windows PC base, 400 million is certainly doable.

400 million Windows devices sold would be nice – in fact, it would be far more than nice. It would be extremely lucrative for Microsoft. However, if a goodly percentage of those Windows users are not on Windows 8 phones, Windows RT tablets and Windows 8 tablets, then Microsoft will have utterly failed in its Windows 8 mission. Sales of Windows 8 on the desktop will be a short-term financial windfall but a long-term financial disaster for Microsoft. Here’s why.

Fools, knaves and naysayers may not understand the importance of computing’s shift to tablets, but you can be very sure that Microsoft does.

Microsoft desperately needs to migrate their operating system from desktop devices to mobile devices. Microsoft controls the desktop (including notebook) market, but the desktop market has peaked and is starting to decline. All the action, all the growth, all the money is in mobile devices (phones and tablets). In mobile, Windows is nowhere to be found. Even if Windows 8 is an overwhelming success on the desktop, if it is also an underwhelming failure on phones and tablets, then it is a failure for Microsoft, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Microsoft NEEDS to move to mobile. They need it very badly and they need it right now. We’ll see if Microsoft has 400 million copies of Windows 8 in play by this time next year. But more importantly – MUCH more importantly – we’ll see WHERE those operating systems are located. If Microsoft hasn’t made significant penetration into the phone and tablet space by this time next year (or has rapidly accelerating sales in those areas), then it’s all over but the shouting. Their OS will be trapped on an every shrinking desktop base and Windows will be locked out of the future of personal computing.

Question #7: Can Microsoft Overcome Their Very Late Start?

Windows (smartphone market share) — 5.4 million units, 3.5 percent share (2.3 percent a year earlier) ~ via nbcnews.com

Right now, Microsoft’s Windows 7 for phones is the third horse in a two-horse race. And Microsoft hasn’t even started the race in mobile tablets yet. Windows Phone 7 has excellent hardware but that has not been enough to garner market share. Microsoft believes that they have the better mobile phone operating system but their operating paradigm hasn’t been embraced by mobile phone buyers. Microsoft has an excellent overall mobile phone platform but they can’t seem to attract developers. Despite their very deep pockets and their extensive connections, Microsoft can’t seem to get any traction in the mobile markets at all.

In perhaps the irony of all ironies, Windows 8 now finds itself playing the roll that the Mac played vis a vis Windows in the eighties and ninties. Windows 8 for mobile, like the Mac, is the (subjectively) better platform that no one will buy.

Frankly, Microsoft has no one to blame for this but themselves. The iPhone was introduced in 2007 but Microsoft’s second attempt at re-booting their mobile phone operating system won’t be operable until October of 2012. Apple introduced the iPad in 2010 but Microsoft won’t be introducing Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets until the fall of 2012.

This has often been Microsoft’s pattern. They start so very far behind and think that they can catch up simply by being “better” than the rest. It didn’t work with the Zune. It didn’t work with Windows Phone 7. And it’s unlikely to work with Windows 8 either.

The “best” runner may always win the race but only if he starts the race at the same time as all the other contestants. What good does it do Microsoft to be the “best” runner in a race if they’re starting a full two and a half years behind the pack?

The only way to win a race like that is to stop chasing the leaders and start a new race. That’s what Apple did with the iPhone. There was no way that Apple was going to catch up to Palm, RIM, Nokia and Windows Mobile in Smartphones. So they started a new race in pocket computers instead.

Starting a new race is what Apple did with the iPad too. There was no way that the Mac – considered by many to be the “best” personal computer – was ever going to catch up to PC’s powered by Windows. Apple stopped chasing Windows PCs and they started a new race in touch tablets.

Microsoft needs to stop joining races that are already in progress and start running their own race.

Question #8: Will This Be The Year Of Windows?

“Make no mistake about it, this is the year for Windows,” ~ Steve Ballmer

So is Steve Ballmer right or is he wrong? Will this be the Year of Windows? Or will this be the year that we discover that Windows is likely to ever remain the third of three in mobile computing? Let me put it this way.

Microsoft Windows has had a great fall. Not the hardware, nor the software, nor the kernel, nor the platform, nor the developers, nor 400 million desktop sales, nor all the kings horses and all the king’s men are going to put this operating system on the throne again.

Let’s meet back here in a year from now and see what time hath wrought. It should be fascinating.

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • steve_wildstrom

    Everyone seems to have forgotten that when Apple first released the iPhone, it claimed that a major advantage was that it “ran on OS X.” It did in the sense that what we now call iOS shared a kernel with the Mac operating system and used a subset of its APIs–essentially the same as the relationship between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 except the Microsoft has gone much further to make the Windows 8 UI very Phone 8-like. Of course, after Apple opened the iPhone to third-party developers, it realized that it was better off treating iOS as something unique. The rest, as they say, is history.

  • Rich

    Microsoft is aiming for three markets: phones, tablets, and the desktop PC. In phones, I’m puzzled why Windows Phone hasn’t sold well when the few users it does have, seem to like it. But for whatever reason the market has not embraced it and its future doesn’t look bright.

    In tablets, Microsoft has jumped into hardware manufacturing with the Surface. The Surface appears to be a strange mess of conflicting factors, and products like that generally don’t find a warm reception.

    With Windows 8, the company is offering desktop PC users a new OS so radically different that it seems likely to make many or most of them say “No way – I’ll stick with what I’ve got.”

    Looking at Microsoft’s upcoming offerings as objectively as I can, I’m not encouraged that 2013 will be a happy year for the company.

    • Michael Smith

      They are gazillions people that carries their laptop to work. So imagine how awesome it will be if we are not weighted down all the time. I have an iPad but I still need a laptop. But with Surface pro? Neither. Surface Pro will hit the enterprise market by storm especially for people who need to do work out of the office I believe.

      • FalKirk

        Without developers creating tablet specific apps, the Surface Pro will just be a lessor notebook computer.

        • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

          Microsoft is the king of missed opportunities.

          “Here” they could have said “is the Surface RT. it runs on an ARM chip. It will be our premier Metro mobile tablet device. Please start making apps and show what you can do on this new platform to make it appealing and useful to users.”

          Instead, they muddle the message with an intel monstrosity that will allow the same old developers to port their same old Win32 apps and the ecosystem Microsoft desperately wants will fill with half assed ports of existing desktop apps, making no use of the startlingly different Metro UI.

          • DuckF

            “that will allow the same old developers to port their same old Win32 apps”
            That is all that is left to Ms, the only reason why MS is still alive after:
            - it failed to provide a decently stable and secure OS, proving in any moments of its life to be a decade behind any of its competitors (OSX, Linux, BSD, BeOs)
            - it failed for a decade to provide a decent tablet or ultramobile, no one cared about xp tablets and umpc
            - it failed to enter the phone segment: no one cares about Windows Phone, all it has got is killing the tiny market share CE had
            - it failed to enter the music market: Zune is a failure
            - it failed to roll out a decent web strategy: no one cares about Bing, Facebook wiped away old messaging communities, Office 365 is just competing against their own MS Office.

            In facts, MS successful products today are only Xbox and Windows, kill Windows legacy support and developers will not just rewrite and rethink all applications for “the UI formerly known as Metro”, but will rather jump the shark and carefully consider if jumping on Android or iOs instead.

  • jfutral

    I certainly hope MS is asking these very questions. I just finished my morning run around the tech news sites and quite frankly I am tired of the “underwhelming iPhone 5″ and “leaving the door open for MS” stories. What an absolute insult to MS.

    That attitude will not win MS and partners any customers. No company should _wait_ for another company to open their door. They need to open their own door. If they can create a compelling product, they won’t need to wait for Apple or any of the Android makers to leave a window of opportunity. The smartphone market is already in growth mode, it is simply (ha! “simply”) a matter of making something people will want, not waiting for them to be disappointed in everything else.

    So these are very important strategy questions MS needs to not just be asking but answering. I hope they do. Competition needs it. The only thing Android competition is doing with Apple is playing leapfrog. A strong third competitor can make everyone else totally rethink their vision. That _could_ be MS. But until they actually release their products, we’ll never know, will we?

    Joe

  • Michael Smith

    In case you don’t notice, for the dinosaurs who don’t like the new interface, you can turn off the metro UI to make it run exactly like windows 7. It’s pretty technical so I guess you overlook it and gave it an instant fail. Tip: It is by changing values 1 to 0. Since every company has an IT department, I guess it won’t matter to you. Just ring them up. Learning curves? Zero for the uninitiated. This will stop making the desktop function like a Metro app and works exactly like the desktop we know. So…..Irrelevant. Besides, learning curve is overstated. What exactly is Android and iOS all about again, pray tell?

    Three versions of Windows 8? Give me a break. There is only really two versions based on the different instructions sets for the x86 systems and the ARM based Surface RT. Windows developers are pretty used to the multitude of different hardware configurations to make it work. Windows 8 for the Surface Pro works exactly like the ones of the Ultrabook and desktop. Watch the keynote address of the Surface? The differences is only in the incorporation of input hardware. No big deal and tt is not the end of it. Microsoft is going to add Kinect along the way for desktop…and Leap Motion is very promising for Win8 unless Apple decides to buy it and make it their own. All in all closed system sucks.

    Why do I always get hinted that failures of Windows is all because of Vista? To be honest is not. Let me repeat it all out again. Vista fail because for the most part it requires a good amount of RAM and a dedicated video card to run properly which were non existent from the XP days. Microsoft is at least honest. Everyone will enjoy all the new features unlike Mac which conveniently locked it forcing a forced systems upgrade. A good amount of people in the Windows ecosystem does not know what a RAM and a video card is. Hence, the widespread freeze and lags and the problems of Vista…..

    Btw, I am not very literate in PC but can do most things thanks to Google search. I have tried Windows 8 and I love it. The whole concept was meant for a small tablet screen but I am still amaze on how good it looks and it’s efficient use of space for a 27″ screen on a normal 1920×1080 screen res. I am clearly not a fan of Steve Ballmer but I am not blind to see that there are a lot of talented people in Microsoft. Why all the pre-judgement before the actual released of the Surface as vaporware (no one actually demoed it too) and Windows 8 is useless.

    As for being late to the market….well. How late is late? Nokia N series and Symbian was impenetrable and look where they are now. Apple for one thing is surely slowing down. There is nothing groundbreaking since the the 4s and the 5 is a disappointment.

    • FalKirk

      “…you can turn off the metro UI to make it run exactly like windows 7.”

      So you’re telling me that one of Window’s 8 “features” is that you can turn it off? Just think about that for a second, why don’t you.

      “Three versions of Windows 8? Give me a break. There is only really two versions based on the different instructions sets for the x86 systems and the ARM based Surface RT…”

      …and Window 8 phone makes 3.

      “Why do I always get hinted that failures of Windows is all because of Vista?”

      Because you’re paranoid? There wasn’t one word spoken or one hint dropped regarding Vista.

      “As for being late to the market….well. How late is late?”

      4 years for the phone, 2.5 years for the tablet.

      “Nokia N series and Symbian was impenetrable and look where they are now.”

      Palm, Nokia, RIM and Windows Mobile weren’t caught from behind. They were outflanked when the iPhone created an entirely new pocket computing paradigm.

      Steve Ballmer says that there will be 400 million Windows 8 devices sold within a year from now. How many of them do you think will be phones, Windows RT and Windows 8 devices?

      • steve_wildstrom

        It’s also not correct. Some corporate users may–repeat may, since Microsoft has not made this completely clear–be able to boot into Desktop. For individuals and OEMs, boot to Metro is mandatory.

      • Michael Smith

        Don’t be silly. Being able to turn it off is a fail safe feature. For those that are not willing to go through the learning curve. In other words, no bad press. Windows in itself is not a new product so they do understand some peoples’ objections about learning it all over again. Besides, if those people complain over such minor things they won’t go to Mountain Lion.

        It is still 2 versions. Windows phone is based on ARM. It is still going to be very interesting how an i5 Ivy Bridge can fit into Surface . Besides, developers are now multi-platform except for those Apple only developers. I would rather play Battlefield 3 on my PS3 and PC than say Cut the rope on the iOS.

        Wait what? 400 million? Did Steve Ballmer said that? I am not surprised. He probably plucks no from iOS. What he said is entirely different with the actual strategy. Microsoft is very conservative on the Surface Pro sales estimates. They are not stupid. They know about the lessons from Playbook and they do not want to be caught in that situation. It is true because Intel has to scale back on their earnings estimate.

        • AdamChew

          Why don’t we wait to confirm as to whether the apps for the phone can run on the Surface. Perhaps the writer is right there are three platforms.

          Ballmer is conservative?, look at the way he shoots off his mouth, he is anything but conservative.

        • FalKirk

          “400 million? Did Steve Ballmer said that?” – Michael Smith

          With all due respect, did you even read the article before commenting? Not only did I provide a Ballmer quote regarding the 400 million sales number, but question #6 was entirely devoted to that topic.

          • Michael Smith

            It was a sarcastic remark but looks like I totally fail at it. What I was trying to imply was anyone important who said stupid things like this have to be non other than Mr. Ballmer himself. GIGO aside, I hope Microsoft succeed so we can have a healthy three-way fight. I have fallen in love with the Surface Pro and nothing is going to stop me from getting it.

          • FalKirk

            “It was a sarcastic remark but looks like I totally fail at it.”- Michael Smith

            Sorry. Sarcasm often dries up in print. I failed to detect your intended meaning.

    • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.paris1 Christopher Paris

      Except that your comment about being able to “turn off” the Metro interface is patently FALSE, as has been reported over and over. One has to toggle between Metro and Desktop constantly. There is no built-in way to permanently disable Metro. You can BYPASS Metro through a registry hack, or utilize a third party solution (a fast-growing cottage industry, popping up to meet consumer demands already…. never a good sign.) And even then, the desktop that remains is NOT “exactly like Windows 7.”

      Finally, this hack has the side-effect of crippling some of the OTHER features in Win 8 that might be desired, such as the Explorer ribbon, and most damning of all, the newer file management improvement (copy, paste, etc.)

      If you have to (a) hack the OS to get it to work like a previous version, and then (b) lose all few remaining benefits of the newer version as a result, then why buy the new version to begin with?

  • mhikl

    When Apple introduced its first iPhone and iPad they were big steps not terribly well received by some quarters. But both then shook and took the world. MicroSoft was caught with its pants down in both instances and in tablets it felt somehow especially betrayed. MS felt that it had invented the tablet, owned the tablet and promptly went into denial of the changing times. It then in desperation began to hammer an old platform and OS to the form of a tablet. This is akin to slapping wings on a pig. Since Balmer’s fateful catapult into these narrow waters I’ve tried to be fair and hope for the big guy, but that pig just ain’t gonna fly. It’s destined to make the fastest belly-flop, in the history of such sorry souls, into the hinterland where Sock Drawer Orphans quietly rest.

  • Jurassic

    John, your article is an excellent reality check for Mr. Ballmer.

    I especially agree with the disjointedness of Windows 8. Consider this, Windows is closer to OS X in UI look and operation, than Windows is to Metro (or whatever they are calling it these days ;-). Imagine having to switch back and forth between Windows and OS X every few minutes all day long, and how unnerving that would be. Now replace OS X with Metro which is even more different in look and operation… that frustration level goes up a notch.

  • http://twitter.com/tlernerZG Tihomir Lerner

    Absolutely agree. Many commentators talk about the “revolutionary’ Windows Phone 8 as a game changer while completely ignoring the fact that this platform has been around for 2 years now – known as WP7.
    Live tiles are nothing new, and despite what some may suggest here, most people have actually heard of Windows phone or have seen it or tried it a store. But the bottom line is that it does not sell. Something is turning people off this OS platform. And MS should have done some serious customer research before it started working on the ’8′.
    As long time user I can attest to its speed and ease of use especially when compared to Android, but I could also attest to a lot of problems this platform has. It still feels like beta version even after Mango update. It is still missing some important apps, and the one which are very popular like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, were late in coming and do not always work right because the OS has a problem with third party push notifications.
    Also, it will somehow switch into ‘airplane’ mode preventing one from receiving or placing calls. The icons actually show your phone being on, but it is not connected to the network. I have had a couple of HTC topliners with WP and they all have terrible reception and WiFi connection consistency – basically they fail in two most important smartphone aspects: calls (it is a phone after all) and internet connectivity.
    I am no longer a believer that MS will significantly improve this platform in its next incarnation. The fact that the system is not yet ready (yet, they pompously announce devices running it) makes me believe it will be even more buggy than ’7′ when it comes out in a month or so.
    I was really hoping for a third mobile platform and YES, there is always room for that. Many people hate Apple and won’t touch anything with its logo on it while many Android users (whether they want to publicly admit it or not) are quite aware of the many problems plaguing that platform. So, there is definitely room for a strong third platform but MS is probably not the company which will deliver it to the satisfaction of customers.

  • dave

    nice job,good read, spot on. they have a the right answers,but there for 6 year old questions,only ultra low MSFT/$ can drive brain dead balmer and ftard cronys off. heres to
    ultra low MSFT/$

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.rosmer Michael Bruce Rosmer

    Interesting questions, Balmer said a couple years ago the biggest risk MS was taking was Windows 8. There are some things they’ve got going for them that seem to be overlooked though:

    1. Novelty – there is finally something for people to take notice of
    2. Cool – for the first time in perhaps ever MS is getting compliments on their design, aesthetically it’s attractive, it has the Apple factor there

    Really I believe success will come down to three questions:

    1. Eco-system – Android and iOS are killing everyone else in mobile eco-system and until that changes, which there is a reasonable chance of happening, MS mobile devices are pretty useless; in the tablet market it’s really a one horse race and that’s Apple (unless you count Amazon, who I love as about the most innovative large company out there right now), Android simply doesn’t have the tablet app support that iOS does and Microsoft is going to launch with essentially none (have we heard how WP7 apps will play on Win 8 tablets? Win 7 apps that run on the x86 or x64 version will essentially be useless because they’re not designed for touch), without software the devices are useless, they better pray they have a compiling offering in the form of Zune to provide multi-media support but that’s highly unlikely, Apple and Amazon are the kings there

    2. UI – there’s a lot of criticism about the UI being different, I’m not so concerned about that the question is will it be easy? That’s what will make the difference for average consumers, and I think for the most part you’ll find people can pick it up pretty quickly, but time will tell

    3. Marketing – none of the rest will matter unless they can create a lot of noise, a big splash, a compelling value proposition and this is arguably where they’ve been weak over the last few years, I’m not sure I see that changing or changing enough to make it work for them, I’m willing to bet Win 8 is the OS enterprise is most hesitant to adopt out of any version of Windows since 95 (or perhaps Me) so that kills a lot of sales and leaves the consumer market, can it shake the consumer love for OSX in the laptop space? Maybe if it’s well bundled enough, slick enough, at the right price point and a great UI…what about tablets? I think they’ll nail tablets on the cool and fail on the depth due to lack of apps, that’s my prediction, time will tell

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.paris1 Christopher Paris

    What’s truly frustrating is that MS had the advantage already with the pen-enabled Tablet PC form factor. It was the Tablet PC market that brought about the iPad, which was Apple’s foray into tablets. But Apple reinvented the paradigm, and dumped the pen. Microsoft, instead of remembering it’s head start — and (more importantly) that humans created the stylus tens of thousands of years ago because it does things that a finger cannot — rolled over, and opted to try to play in Apple’s sandbox instead.

    Now those of us who loved “inking” on our tablet PC’s are living through a Dark Ages, as the new hardware resets and we have to wait for manufacturers such as Samsung to re-introduce the pen. Something, by the way, which is inevitable.

    My job includes a lot of interviews and note taking. Using a pen-enabled Tablet PC, I was able to write my notes directly onto (into) my computer, have them automatically translated into text, and paste them into reports or forms, etc. I was able to reduce consulting hours billed to clients by 2-4 DAYS, and the reduced costs resulted in a boost in our business because we were faster and cheaper than the other guys… all because of adopting an awesome technology like inking.

    Now I’m back to writing on paper pads, and spending days retyping my notes, throwing my billing back a decade, and having to either absorb the lost time or pass the cost onto my clients.

    So MS has already shown you what they think of you when you fall in love with one of their products, such as the Tablet PC. They don’t care at all. As soon as someone else comes up with something “cooler” they will drop their product and run back to mimic mode, rather than push their established technology to new and better places.

    What we could have right now, if MS hadn’t abandoned the ink tablet: larger but lighter pen-based slates, dockable, with improved handwriting recognition and drawing abilities, at reduced price points.

    What we got? Finger painting and lugging around keyboards again.

    • steve_wildstrom

      Microsoft released the first Tablet PC in 2003 then proceded to do almost nothing with it for the next decade. The completely missed the multitouch revolution–resisted it, actually–and never offered touch-optimized versions of key software. So they quickly dissipated whatever first-mover advantage they had.

      HP is coming out with an interesting dual-digitizer hybrid notebook/tablet designed for both multitouch and pen input. It could be that it tries to do too much, but it also may be just what you are looking for.

  • WT Fudge

    The author is a dufus – he’s got the Windows 8 confused with Windows Phone 8. Do your research buddy.