I’ve been reading a lot about the forthcoming Windows 8. I’ve used the Developer’s Preview a little. There’s a lot to like about it. And there are some problems. I haven’t written much about it, simply because I can’t decide if Microsoft’s Windows 8 plan is brilliant or idiotic. It’s clearly one or the other.
There’s no middle ground. That’s for sure.
Here’s what I think I think. So far.
One, Michael Mace has a fantastic write-up on the state and prospects of Windows 8. Literally one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. In any medium.
Two, I’m just about certain the bolted together combination of the new Metro interface and the more traditional Windows interface is not going to make anyone happy. Will people suffer through it as an interim step into Microsoft’s mandated future desktop? Maybe. Maybe not. If I were a Windows user, I would. Because I’m a computer nerd. Those who don’t care about anything other than finding, starting and using the programs they need to do their work? That’s a tougher call.
Three, I think it is very risky for Microsoft to bet the farm on a mobile-first computing experience. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I simply don’t think anyone is going to use a Windows tablet, when the iPad is so clearly the established, preferred and beloved brand. Even dedicated Windows computer users have embraced the iPhone and iPad. I don’t see that changing. At all. Even if somehow Windows tablets turn out to be significantly cheaper (and I doubt this will be the case, especially when you add next to latest generation iPads into the mix), then there’s Android to deal with. It seems like Microsoft is aiming for the lower end of the market. Or at least drifting that way.
Fourth, pigs will fly before corporate America makes its change-resistant and outspoken workforce retrain under Windows 8, and Metro. My company is moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 (a tiny step at most), and you’d think they were moving from an Abacus to a Cray. The IT folks are, rightly so, very worried about the potential hue and cry from the people who create content. The jump from Windows 7 to Windows 8 would be seen (rightly or wrongly) as an invitation for mutiny. I think Paul Thurrott may be onto something, when he wonders if Microsoft has already given up on business adoption for this release.
If so, that is straight up crazy.
Fifth, while not specifically Windows 8 related, if I were running Microsoft, I would absolutely, without a doubt, nurture my last remaining monopoly by releasing Office apps for iOS. As fast as I could. The iPad experience has conclusively demonstrated that users will not forego a better tablet simply because Microsoft Office isn’t natively on it. There are multitudes of third party developers standing by to implement work-arounds.
Sixth, Microsoft’s inability to deliver a clear and concise marketing message is catching up with it. Need some examples? Well, there’s this. And the never-ending branding/naming changes. It seems very haphazard. Maybe it’s not, but nothing coming from Microsoft proves it. As much as anything, Microsoft needs someone to step up and become the spokesperson for- and face of- its strategic plan.
In sum, I want Windows 8 to be a roaring success. For a lot of reasons. I’m by no means certain it won’t be. But I am by no means certain it will be either.
Scary times for Microsoft.