Even If Windows 8 Fails, Microsoft Won't Die

ballmer windows 8 tablet

Windows 8 will probably not be a  killer success right out of the gate. But that doesn’t really doesn’t matter.This week two more stories circulated that made people cry out “Windows 8 is doomed and Microsoft is doomed with it!”

Intel CEO Paul Otellini told employees in Taiwan that Windows 8 is being released before it’s fully ready, and that a bunch of improvements still need to be made to it, Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan and Ian King reported. Intel PR later scrambled to do damage control on that story, calling the article “unsubstantiated.”

Otellini was echoing a slew of other similar criticisms, including a new report this week from IT analysts Michael Silver and Steve Kleynhans of Gartner. They wrote that “Windows 8 is a big gamble for Microsoft,” and that the new Metro interface, while good for tablets, “has people questioning its appropriateness for traditional desktop and notebook machines, which comprise the majority of the existing PC market.”

Those people are the IT professionals who buy the lion’s share of Windows PC. IT pros are wondering if Windows 8 is going to “suffer a similar fate” as Vista, Silver and Kleynhans say. Vista had a bad reputation among IT professionals and consumers alike. At its peak only 8 per cent of PCs used it, Gartner estimates.

But here’s the thing. Now is the perfect time for Microsoft to take the big risk and do something bold with its desktop OS. Because even if it flops, it doesn’t matter.

Here’s why:

  • Microsoft is really an enterprise company,  making most of its money from business customers with products like Windows Server, management software, Microsoft Office, SQL databases, development tools. Those businesses are doing well.
  • Enterprises are busy buying Windows 7, in droves. Microsoft will have most them locked up with enterprise agreements for three to five more years. That’s plenty of time to fix Windows 8 if it bombs.
  • Microsoft is sitting on $60 billion in cash. It’s got DEEP pockets to survive and thrive even if its Windows business craters.

Microsoft’s first versions are never perfect out of the gate. The company mastered the art of what we’ll call “good enough quality” at an attractive price. Windows 8 will likely be the same sort of thing.

True, Microsoft needs a place in the post-PC era where people use more mobile devices than PCs. Plus, it could have made a few critical mistakes with its Windows 8 RT tablet strategy, in deliberately making it unattractive to enterprise users.

But Microsoft has ample time and resources to fix the mistakes it is sure to make with Windows 8, just like it fixed the mistakes it made with many other of its products.

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