Windows 8: Can This Gamble Work?

Remember the big hullabaloo when Windows 95 launched? What about XP? Windows Vista and Windows 7 you'll probably remember less well. Windows 8? You probably don't know that it's launched tomorrow.

The new Windows 8 interface is a great leap forward for Microsoft, its sensational to look at and should work really very well on a tablet. My worry is that it's too big a change for most users who will probably retreat to the safety of Windows 7, seek out an Apple instead or abandon the desktop metaphor completely and move to iPads and Android tablets in their droves.

As iOS and Android developers add more and more desktop-like functions to their software more and more users will drop off the ecosystem. After all, when a Transformer Prime offers 15-20 hours of usable battery life in a user friendly tablet/laptop hybrid design and can do most of what you want from your main computer why would you buy into Windows? Or when the iPad, teamed with an external keyboard delivers a seamless user experience and rock solid performance no matter what you throw at it, who is going to go back to running clunky old Windows, with its virii, registry issues and all that baggage?

In the consumer space I think Microsoft is done. Perhaps Windows 8 on elegant new hardware might win a small following, but in terms of bulk sales into the living room things can only go downhill from here. There's too much competition on price, performance and desirability for your average home user to need to ever consider Windows at home again. Enterprises are only just adopting Windows 7, Windows 8 is going to be in very few IT Strategies over the next few years. Sure, licence sales will look good - but these will all be licences purchased for downgrade rights. No consumer market, no enterprise market, Microsoft is in big trouble.

Microsoft's only hope appears to be Windows RT and the Surface. Which is fine up until the point that you start to see first reviews of the tablet, which paint an oh so familiar picture of software and hardware failing to work in perfect harmony and needing a few more months of testing. It's as if Microsoft have learnt nothing from all these years of spectacular Apple product launches.

If anyone at Microsoft doesn't understand the precipice they're standing on right now, they need only look as far as recent Windows Phone partner Nokia, whose domination of smartphone sales was close to Microsoft's desktop OS dominance. Too many undercooked products, too many sloppy system updates and the world moves beneath you and soon its too late to react.

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