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Windows 8: Let's Not Plan The Funeral Yet

Even in tech time, it seems silly to sound the death knell so soon on such a significant overhaul. Did you really expect instant success?

Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
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Microsoft did its best Mark Twain imitation on Tuesday, effectively dismissing rumors of Windows 8's premature death as exaggerated.

Windows exec Tami Reller told the crowd at the Credit Suisse 2012 Annual Technology Conference that Microsoft has already sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses in the first month of general availability. Moreover, upgrades to Windows 8 are moving more rapidly than upgrades to Windows 7 -- the most popular operating system ever -- did in its first month on the market.

I find this news oddly refreshing. When I mentioned to my wife the various rumors and reports that Windows 8 might be DOA, she responded, "Really? Didn't it just come out?"

Yes, it did. But there's a Hollywood box office mentality when it comes to high-profile technology launches -- if people aren't immediately lining up for your latest-and-greatest, then it's a flop. I think that's misguided. Windows customers -- me included -- aren't paying 12 bucks for two hours of entertainment. We're buying software, and in many cases, hardware, too, that we'll rely on for at least a couple of years. (Or, if you're still running XP, many years.) What's the rush?

Especially for smaller businesses, it doesn't usually make much sense to pay the early adoption tax. When I recently laid out my reasons for passing on Windows 8 at launch, I noted that if I did upgrade at some point down the line, the decision would likely be motivated by a hardware purchase. Much of that hardware is still on the assembly line, and what is already out there is relatively expensive. It stands to reason that the hardware -- not to mention the apps and underlying OS -- will improve with time, too.

While I'm just a single user, organizations that upgrade to Windows 8 likewise need to consider a corresponding hardware refresh -- touch PCs and tablets, in particular -- for an optimal deployment. And hardware aside, there's the basic fact that Windows 8's mobile-minded UI requires most users to reset their traditional PC habits.

In other words, if Windows 8 is going to succeed with businesses, consumers, or both, it's going to take a while. The problem isn't necessarily with Windows 8 and the changes it ushers in. The problem is that "it's going to take a while" isn't a popular saying in the technology business, or in any business these days. There's something to be said for urgency -- but not if it's accompanied by myopia.

Perhaps it's naive to chafe at the go-big-or-go-home impatience that's so pervasive in the industry. Shareholders aren't philanthropists, after all. (Even Bill Gates is reputed, perhaps apocryphally, to have once dressed down an executive in a meeting: "Why don't you just give up your options and join the Peace Corps?") But I'd counter that it would be downright unrealistic to have expected Windows 8 to become a massive sensation overnight.

In a sense, 40 million is a small number in Microsoft terms; the company has sold 630 million Windows 7 licenses worldwide. Some of the not-so-rosy analyst reports have no doubt spawned tense meetings in Redmond conference rooms on both the consumer and business fronts. Microsoft still has a lot of catching up to do on mobile devices; Apple and Google have made the most of their head starts. While Microsoft bragged that the Windows Store opened with more apps than any other app marketplace at launch -- and has subsequently doubled the inventory -- it has a long way to go to match what's on offer for iOS or Android devices. That will be a major hindrance with consumers in the short term. Indeed, revered tech reviewer Walt Mossberg just listed a lack of apps as one of two strikes against Nokia's Lumia 920, which runs Windows Phone 8.

Windows 8 faces challenges in the corporate world, too -- a world where Windows has made the cash register ring millions of times over and continues to dominate PC market share. It's certainly plausible that Microsoft will need to issue a "Windows Classic" or Windows 8.5 version to foster significant adoption by businesses, many of whom are still working their way up to Windows 7.

But 40 million signals that it might be a bit soon to start digging a plot for Windows 8 alongside Vista in the technology graveyard. So Windows 8 wasn't an instant blockbuster. So what? It could still be a success story. It just might take a while.

Upgrading isn't the easy decision that Win 7 was. We take a close look at Server 2012, changes to mobility and security, and more in the new Here Comes Windows 8 issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: Why you should have the difficult conversations about the value of OS and PC upgrades before discussing Windows 8. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 10:56:24 PM
re: Windows 8: Let's Not Plan The Funeral Yet
There are really only 2 things wrong with Windows 8 and they are easy to fix. 1. It was a stupid blunder to remove the start button. 2. For desktop use, the user should be able to set the OS to boot to the standard windows desktop instead of Metro.

The Metro interface is great for small, single touch screen implementations, but for desktops, particularly with multiple screens, then Metro is just plain stupid. 99.999% of all desktop users do not have touch screens. And even if they did they are not going to be holding their arms out to touch them for long before their arms fall off. The keyboard and mouse are here to stay until we see some small touchscreens that are designed to lay flat on the table to be used with Windows 8. Even then, the majority of desktop use is going to be on the upright screens, at eye level using mouse and keyboard.

Until there are some killer desktop apps that are designed for Metro, Metro is going to be a flop for the desktop. That doesn't mean that Windows 8 has to be a flop if they just incorporate these 2 small changes. (very, very small).

In the mean time, I am looking at 3rd party solutions like "Classic Shell" (there are several) that add a start button as I consider whether to roll out Windows 8 in our environment. It would be very interesting to see real numbers of desktop implementations instead of sales and then how many of those are using third party addins to make windows 8 usable.
User Rank: Ninja
12/1/2012 | 6:50:26 PM
re: Windows 8: Let's Not Plan The Funeral Yet
We can thank Apple for that mentality. They made a point out of bragging with how many pieces they sold over the first weekend. Later the Googles and Amazons latched on to that marketing approach and now Microsoft is measured the same way.
I don't think it is entirely unfair. Microsoft put W8 beta out and did absolutely nothing with the feedback it collected. There were a few items that were called out by the masses and Microsoft outright rejected fixing that (Start button, bypassing Metro) - something that free tools like ClassicShell can do with ease! If customers are met with such arrogance then Microsoft does not deserve the benefit of doubt. Microsoft had plenty of time and chances to make Win8 not the dysfunctional mess it currently is. It also had plenty of opportunity to design and price the Surface in the sweet spot of the market. That is currently between 200 and 300 Dollars.
Sure, adoption rate is to be measured after a few months to come to an honest conclusion. But prematurely calling the death of Win8 is as bogus and stating that 40 million licenses were sold with the intent of making it sound as if 40 million happy users are on Win8. Microsoft's 'sold' numbers are merely the number of licenses issued. By now there should be big blocks of licenses still awaiting a computer to be built for. Also, the 40 million includes all those Win8 licenses that are never used because the systems are upgraded to Win7. The blame goes both ways, but Microsoft is way more in control over success and failure than anyone else. It is incredible how little Microsoft makes out of that. And now they talk about charging people for an annual service pack. Are they serious???
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2012 | 2:19:31 PM
re: Windows 8: Let's Not Plan The Funeral Yet
With Windows 8, MS has raised the bar on 'classic Windows' performance and security, improving upon the solid Windows 7 foundation. However, the move to the tiles interface has been played very poorly.

With 20/20 hindsight, I would have (1) made the default boot sequence land at the classic desktop, (2) given the classic desktop a very similar look and feel to Windows 7 with only improvements that streamline, simplify, and speed the user's experience, (3) used the Windows key to toggle between the classic desktop and the new "Advanced" tiles desktop, (4) given administrators the ability to operate Windows 8 in a Windows 7 compatible mode and work with IT shops to encourage upgrades for security enhancements without having to devour the entire Windows 8 stack, (5) given "power" users the ability to choose their boot sequence default... once they had discovered the joys of the 'tiles' experience, they could tailor their experience to that functionality. This strategy would preserve the major form and function changes as advanced capabilities about which users would hear buzz and eventually seek to master, while not suffering the disorientation of experiencing 'tiles' first with no idea how to work with Windows 8's split personality.

In a computer store recently, I watched shoppers put hands on Windows 8 laptops for the first time... non-touch and touch screens. In both cases, they were completely befuddled. The sales rep didn't help the MS case when - after being asked what computer he used personally - he confessed to recently switching to Mac. Mind you, his job was to sell computers with Windows OS.
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2012 | 7:00:50 PM
re: Windows 8: Let's Not Plan The Funeral Yet
I'm not sure I qualify as an "IT Leader" the way you mean it but I head up IT for a local business unit that is part of a global corporation. Our business (all units) sell to other businesses, not directly to consumers. We run ERP systems, use Sharepoint and Microsoft Office with our PC's. We are just finishing a new PC hardware deployment globally that includes Win 7 (replacing XP) and Office 2010 (replacing Office 2000). It will be years before we deploy Win 8 in any volume. Laptops are on 3 year replacement schedule and desktops a 4 year cycle. No O/S upgrade will be done on old hardware just to move from Win 7 to Win 8. If Win 8 installed on next cycle of hardware, then we will start to use.

But as far as Touch, why? Even outside sales guys who might like lighter device would still struggle to use applications I mentioned above without a keyboard. Touch apps are only good when data entry is light. For that most part that is not business the way manufacturers like us will ever be able to do it. This isn't "Click, Click, sign here with electronic pen".

My 9 year old daughter loves Touch for Angry Birds and other games. My wife loves it for web browsing, Facebook, etc. But for business outside of light sales applications (say e-forms to buy a car or something where you mainly just sign an electronic document), I don't see it ever displacing a keyboard in most business areas. I mainly write code for business systems in my job, I guarantee you Touch will not replace my keyboard use, ever.
User Rank: Author
11/29/2012 | 5:56:56 PM
re: Windows 8: Let's Not Plan The Funeral Yet
Are you an IT leader who is NOT waiting to roll out touch-enabled Windows 8 devices? We'd love to have your perspective here.
Laurianne McLaughlin
User Rank: Strategist
11/29/2012 | 1:13:32 AM
re: Windows 8: Let's Not Plan The Funeral Yet
I remember Steve Ballmer falling back on the stat of 400 million Windows OSs sold last year, another 400 million this year. That was at the Nov. 14 Churchill Club dinner. Windows may not be trendy, it may not be chic, but it is out there doing work, lots of plain, ol' document, slide and spreadsheet work. Windows 8 is a break in the familiar user interface -- many Windows users not quite sure about it -- but it will slowly catch on as good for, ah, honest work. So Kevin is calling it about right.Charlie Babcock, InformationWeek
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