With every passing week, the feeling about Windows 8 is that it’s going to be another Microsoft Vista.That’s code for big expensive flop.
Loads of reviews have been written about Windows 8, including ours. Some loved it. Some hated it. But they all say the same thing: Windows 8 will require a major retraining for Windows users and there doesn’t seem to be some great big advantage for all the relearning, particularly for business users.
There’s no killer thing that makes employees more efficient, for instance. It’s just a different interface for doing the same old things — much like when Microsoft moved all the functions around in its Office apps with its hated Ribbon interface.
Windows 8 is a brand new thing. It was designed for a touch interface tablet and there's nothing wrong with that. Windows fans have been eager for their own tablet.
BUT Microsoft didn't just grow its phone OS into a tablet OS. Instead, it combined its tablet OS, with its desktop OS and only kept bits and pieces of the old style. All of those tricks that Windows users have mastered over the years for finding files, customising stuff, shortcuts are gone.
Windows 8 requires users to learn a whole bunch of new tricks -- and learning that stuff wasn't easy, or intuitive. For example, it's not obvious how many apps you have open. You have to hover over the lower-left hand corner to see that. Swiping the screen is like a 'back button' ... you can't go directly to an app that way.
Business Insider's Matt Rosoff wanted to love Windows 8 but after testing it on a regular PC with a touch pad, not a touchscreen (like most business users would have), he found that Windows 8 'gets weird. There are tons of tricks to learn. It's often unclear exactly what you're looking at, and what you're supposed to do with it.
He's not alone.
Todd Bishop at Geekwire flat out admitted he was 'struggling with Microsoft's new thing.'
Windows watcher Paul Thurrott thinks that Microsoft seems to specifically be ignoring businesses. 'Microsoft doesn't actually expect businesses to upgrade to this new system in any meaningful way,' he wrote.
Thurrott looked around and came up with a rather thin list of features Windows 8 has for businesses. Microsoft basically tweaked a few security features.
The list of new features and tweaks is not nearly compelling enough to make businesses want to upgrade, particularly if it means retraining the entire workforce on how to do basic things just to get their jobs done.
Microsoft has tailored the Windows 8 interface so much to the touchscreen that it's almost not worth using on a PC that doesn't have one. And that's most of the Windows 7 PCs used by companies.
There is little reason to pay for an upgrade from Windows 7, and a good reason NOT to.
That means Windows 8 will be most appealing to companies looking to buy new hardware, particularly tablets, and that want Windows instead of an iPad.
How big a market is that? Not as big as companies that already own regular PCs with keyboards.
Windows became the most popular operating system because of the apps, not because of the OS.
Microsoft has stuffed all of the Windows 8 preview versions with Microsoft's own versions of every popular Web service (e-mail, cloud storage, etc). That's great. People love free software as long as its not bloatware.
But the Windows Store doesn't have many Windows 8 metro apps in there yet.
IF Windows 8 is a success, that will certainly change. Developers will flood the Windows Store with tons of cool apps. But if it's not, then the apps won't come. Microsoft's got a chicken-and-egg syndrome. No killer apps convincing users to buy Windows 8. Developers not interested in changing that until Windows 8 hits it big.
The weird thing here is that everyone was rooting for Windows 8. People love new tech.
But Microsoft made some weird design decisions with Windows 8, and no matter how much people screamed about that, Microsoft didn't listen.
'I'm afraid Microsoft has no idea what it's walking into. The culture there under Steve Ballmer and Steven Sinofsky is not very open to criticism. They don't want to hear bad news, so they're not listening,' Business Insider's Matt Rosoff speculates.
Now, Microsoft has some time before businesses completely disavow Windows 8.
Even if Microsoft filled it with business features, few would buy it until Microsoft releases its first service pack - which is when Microsoft fixes whatever really bad performance problems. That's often about a year after release.
However, in this case, businesses know that they really never have to buy Windows 8 it they don't want to. They could skip Windows 8, like they did with Vista, and stick with Windows 7. They could move to new ways to deliver their important Windows desktop apps, like 'desktop virtualization' where the operating system and apps all live on the cloud, and people access it from any device, even an iPad.
If there's a silver lining it's this: A big fat failure with Windows 8 with businesses won't kill Microsoft dead.
Businesses want Microsoft's server products: the new Windows Server 8 (which is getting great reviews), the SQL Server database, the instant messaging server Lync, the collaboration server SharePoint and so on. Microsoft makes most of its money on these products.
That's not as good as if Microsoft had built a new OS with it's massive customer segment, businesses, in mind, and grew its $20 billion annual business with 70% profit margins
But it's a hopeful thought.
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