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Rumors of Windows 8’s impending failure are greatly exaggerated. It is a safe bet to say that Windows 8 will not fail
Windows 8 won’t fail and in several ways it could be a huge success. To understand this, you simply need to think about how new versions of Windows are adopted and who the core audience is for this release. Of course this is not to say that parts of Windows 8 won’t be perceived as failures, but having small flaws is simply a part of most software products today.
Who’s the Audience of Windows 8?
One of the first things to consider about Windows 8 is its audience. You might think that a new release of an operating system is targeting everyone – consumers and business users. While this is true to an extent, it is my belief that each release of Microsoft Windows leans towards a primary audience, which might be consumers, business people, or others.
Windows 8 is again a big update, and as a result, I don’t believe that corporations are the primary target audience (yet). Consumers initially will be. With the large amount of change provided, most companies will take a “wait and see” view in order to know what kinds of support and learning issues they will have to address.
Does Microsoft expect enterprises to run out on October 26th and start upgrading machines? I sincerely doubt it. I do believe the expectation is that Windows 8 will get enterprises to run out and upgrade their Windows XP systems to Windows 7. As stated, I expect most enterprises will wait to see how stable Windows 8 is before even considering it.
The “Big Box Store” Effect
Starting around October 26th, you will start to see a transition on what is offered on machines that are being sold. Windows 8 will quickly become the default operating systems on machines sold through normal channels. If you go to a big box store, you can expect that Windows 8 machines will be what they have displayed and what they push. Windows 7 machines will start disappearing from the store shelves.
Windows machines will still be priced better than some of the competitors that are offered. I believe most people will still buy them over more expensive Apple machines and over the some-what unknown Linux machines. When a consumer goes to buy a computer, Windows 8 is what they will likely get.
This was the groundwork that made Windows Vista a financial success. Vista sold because it was the option consumers were given.
The simple mass of consumers buying new machines will suck Windows 8 into the market. This is a key to why Windows Vista was a success, and it is why Windows 8 is destined to succeed as well. This will be enough to give it the foothold it needs. If you recall, Windows Vista was riddled with issues around drivers and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Even so, the operating system was sucked into the market and is believed to have been a financial success.
Consumers with Windows 8 on their home machines will start getting used to it. With time, they will start asking their companies to upgrade to the same. With time, consumers will help push it into the enterprise.
FUD around Windows 8
There is a lot of FUD being posted on Windows 8. This falls right in line with many previous releases of Windows. A lot of the negative comments about Windows 8 come from one of several groups of people:
· People who have never even used Windows 8 – they are commenting on hearsay.
· People who have used Windows 8 for a few minutes, but have not spent enough time to understand how it actually works
· People who are anti-Microsoft (pro-Apple, pro-Linux people)
At first glance and at first use, Windows 8 can be daunting. The mere fact that you are greeted with a Metro interface instead of the comfortable desktop is enough to reduce comfort with the system. More so, the hype around touch might scare you into thinking you have to have touch. You don’t. In fact, once you are into Windows 8, you can click on the desktop tile and be back to near where you were in Windows 7.
The Start button will seem to be gone, but a Metro button is still there, plus you’ll still have the ability to do most of what you could do in earlier versions. In some cases, you might even be able to do more. One of the issues with the Metro interface that greets you is the lack of information on what you can actually do. The paradigms we learned to live with are gone and new ones are in place.
If you think back – way back—there was a point in time when people grumbled about a line meaning minimize, a box meaning maximize window, and an x meaning close. Today, most people simply “know” that this is what these items do. You had to learn that you could move a window by clicking on the title and dragging. That is not an action that is obvious. When Vista released, people had to learn that the Windows emblem on the bottom left was still the Start menu.
With the Metro interface, the same is true, there are a lot of actions to learn that are not obvious. Worse, there is nothing to indicate that you can make these actions. Once you learn these actions, and what they do, you’ll find that the operating system actually gives you access to quite a bit. Until you learn these actions, you’ll likely question the value of the interface, just as some people questioned whether the little Windows emblem on the bottom left still accessed the start menu even though it didn’t say start!
What I am finding is that people who have worked with Windows 8 (with mouse or with touch), have a much more positive opinion than those that have not. It is the learning of these features that I believe is the difference.
Touch and Mobile Devices
The other factor for Windows 8 is mobile. Fewer people question the idea of the Metro interface on a mobile device. Additionally, the Windows 8 core will be applied to phones. Having a single operating system core across these platforms will make it easier to develop an application once that can run on the phone, a table, or a desktop. This commonality will help in the long run.
Of course, mobile devices are generally expecting a touch interface.
Metro: The Big Pain Point
The big pain point that most people point out with Windows 8 is Metro. Again, on mobile devices, it makes sense. On the desktop is where most people raise questions. The desktop still exists in Windows 8, so to some extent life can go on.
Of course in the long run, there is more about Metro that is important than meets the eye. Metro is a result of a fundamental shift in how we use – or will use—computing devices. It is a beginning point (or really a beginning of the middle point) of a paradigm shift that is occurring. This shift is as the one that happened two decades ago that was dubbed “client/server”.
Things are changing and Metro is a part of it. If you are tied to the desktop and think that Metro is a joke that will never fly, then my recommendation is that you go talk to a mainframe developer from 1990 who said that PCs are simply toys that will never be able to replace or do what is needed. I’ve heard a lot of people say that Metro is an nice interface for little portable devices, but will never do what desktop apps need. There are a lot of parallels.
I’ll write in a future blog post about the paradigm shift I believe we are experiencing. Things are changing and Microsoft is making the shift. Windows 8 is just one piece. As things start to solidify, more people will begin to realize that changes are needed and that Windows 8 is closer to what is needed than previous versions of Windows. For that reason, Windows 7 will at some point not be able to deliver what corporations will need, and thus they will also upgrade.
Consumers will drive Windows 8 to success. This was not my idea originally, but rather came from a discussion with a couple of Microsoft guys around drinks. The argument is solid. When you look at the paradigm shift happening in the computing world (which I’ll write more about), the chance of greater success goes even higher.
One Parting Comment
There are a lot of comments about Windows 8 failing. Many of them indicate that Apple or Linux will benefit from this failure. If you are in tune with the industry and the paradigm shift, then you are likely to realize that this is a bad assumption. If Windows 8 fails, then I would bet that the company that benefits will be Google, and more specifically, Android and Chrome.
The computing world is changing. (again)