WIN8: Microsoft’s Misstep?
The author runs the table on OSes: I have a Linux-laptop, a Windows XP laptop and desktop, a Windows Vista laptop, a Windows 7 laptop, and a Windows 8 laptop. To call Windows 8 a “disappointment” is like calling the Atlantic Ocean a puddle… You may be wondering what Windows 8 has to do with business law. The fact of the matter is that Windows, in its various versions, is the most popular software ever, and the migration (or failure to migrate) to a new version is a major business concern.
More importantly, Windows XP, sometimes billed as “the most popular operating system ever,” is set to reach “End of Life” less than a year from now, on April 8, 2014. This might not seem like an issue, but millions of users, particularly businesses, continue to use the venerable Microsoft XP operating system. For those of you who are visual, consider the following data from Netmarketshare:
|Version||Market Share %||Date of General Availability[http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/products/lifecycle]||End of Life (Extended Support) date[http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/products/lifecycle]|
What this table illustrates for us is that Windows is like Star Trek Movies – people only like every other one (sorry Cumberbatch). There are reasons for this: After its second service pack, XP is sleek, stable, capable, and relatively user-friendly. Vista is a bloated mess, with numerous unnecessary and obtrusive changes. Windows 7 made necessary, intuitive changes, and made the OS capable again. Windows 8 again adds numerous senseless changes, and appears, perhaps as a result, to be following the Star Trek pattern despite being reasonably polished. Bottom line, the average user is more likely to be using the much-hated Windows Vista than Windows 8 at this point.
The data also shows the problem: at End of Life, security support for XP, still extremely popular, will end. Who wants their bank using unsupported, insecure operating system software? What about their government? Their court system? Microsoft’s threats are very real – by May of 2014 any security issues in Windows XP will be permanent, unless third-party software developers find a way to step in and extend updates, or at least engineer patches.
Why hasn’t everyone updated? The strategy behind Windows 8 appears to be to convince people that they want their phone to look like their tablet, which also looks like their desktop. There are obvious hardware issues with this:
– Phones are small, and have small screens. Tablets are slightly larger, but still have small screens. The greater “real estate” of a laptop/desktop is useful and should be used.
– Phones have touchscreens. Tablets have touchscreens. Most laptops/desktops don’t have touchscreens. An OS that assumes a touchscreen, or at least is optimized for one, is crippled by the lack of a touchscreen.
– Phones and tablets, though becoming increasingly viable as work-machines, are still “toys” for the most part. Laptops/desktops are easily both.
Ignoring the hardware issues, which there is no reason to do, a lot of Windows 8’s changes are intimidating. Why Microsoft thought it was a good idea to make desktop users boot to something other than the familiar desktop is unfathomable. The elimination of the much loved start button and program trees entirely blow my mind. Many hotkeys users have used for a long time appear to be gone, a process that started with previous versions of MSOffice. Bluntly, the learning curve for Windows 8 is unreasonable for people who have used an essentially identical OS for more than twenty years.
Even the numbers of copies of Windows 8 sold don’t reflect the numbers used however, as Windows 8 simply isn’t being adopted. Most businesses will switch to tried and tested Windows 7 before they consider Windows 8. Apart from the more shallow learning curve, Windows 7 retails more cheaply. Staples alone recently gave $100 off for purchasing a Windows 8 device -basically “buy the hardware, get the software free” – or $100-$400 for trading an older device in for one with Windows 8. Giving your product away is generally not a winning business strategy.
All of these issues are not lost on Microsoft. Having only recently confirmed that the rumored “Windows Blue” will be a free update styled “Windows 8.1,” there is some hope that Microsoft is responding to its critics. Much hype now surrounds the upcoming “Windows 8.1,” which may just be a service pack a la windows XP fame, but has been rumored to be something more. Some have even suggested that this update, less than 8 months after the release of Windows 8, is the precursor to a subscription based Windows OS at least eventually (which I predict would be a disaster of epic proportions and catapult Linux to the fore). Though Microsoft has confirmed the likely return of the desktop and probable unveiling of “snap” screen-division effect, the details will remain needlessly secret until the June 26 preview.
By Dov Szego