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2/19/2013
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Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated

Windows 8 is one of those good news-bad news Microsoft products. For every sign of success, unanswered questions or signs of flagging momentum appear.

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If you just read the headlines, it might seem that Microsoft is on a roll with its new Windows products. In the first half of February, Windows Phone posted a 150% year-over-year improvement in market share, Windows 8 users gained access to 750,000 additional apps and analysts speculated that Microsoft Office might be sitting on billions in untapped revenue.

The news might sound encouraging to Redmond fans and, in some ways, the enthusiasm is warranted. The bigger narrative, though, is how these developments reaffirm the obstacles Microsoft faces in executing its Windows 8 strategy.

To date, this strategy has reaped success and failure in indeterminate measure. Microsoft said the 60 million Windows 8 licenses it shipped by early January compares well to Windows 7's "record-setting" launch, for example, which sounds promising but is obfuscated by the fact Microsoft hasn't distinguished consumer-bought licenses from those sold to OEMs. Whatever the number of new Windows 8 installations actually activated in the wild, it wasn't enough to revitalize the floundering PC industry over the holidays. It also didn't stimulate interest in Windows 8's slimmed-down sibling, Windows RT. And though Surface Pro and other new devices will push Windows 8's market share over time, it's difficult to say how much; recent evidence suggests the OS's momentum has been flagging.

[ What else is Microsoft up to? Read Microsoft's Big Data Strategy: An Insider's View. ]

Windows Phone's 150% uptick in market share continues this streak of mixed signs. The number comes from research firm IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, published February 14. The report notes that Windows Phone "made market-beating progress," and other studies have come to similar conclusions. Figures recently released by Ad Duplex suggest Windows Phone 8 use in the U.S. has already surpassed that of its two-year old predecessor, Windows Phone 7, for example. And Research firm Strategy Analytics has stated that Windows Phone surpassed BlackBerry in the U.S. for the first time since 2006.

Progress on the mobile front is important to Redmond because, to an extent, Windows Phone 8's growth encourages Microsoft's larger strategy. Windows 8 isn't just an OS; it's the foundation for an Apple-like ecosystem that spans devices and platforms. To succeed, Microsoft needs to be more than an afterthought on the smartphone scene.

But as noted, Windows Phone 8's success has been marked by qualifications and uncertainty. For one thing, the OS snared less than 3% of the mobile market in Q4. Its growth is still important but it's easier to post massive gains when the baseline is so modest. IDC found that Android and iOS managed to grow by 29.2% and 88%, respectively, despite aggregately accounting for 91.1% of the field. Such strong growth from the market leaders somewhat diminishes Windows Phone 8's accomplishment.

What's more, Redmond's smartphone victories might also be fleeting. As InformationWeek's Eric Zeman recently noted, new BlackBerry 10 devices could threaten Windows Phone 8's progress. Indeed, Redmond might have made mobile gains partly because BlackBerry, having annoyed its customer base with multiple delays of its new OS, didn't put up much of a fight in 2012.

The possibility that Windows Phone 8's success relies too heavily on Nokia is another potential strike against the platform's prospects, as is a February 6 report from comScore that suggest Windows Phone 8's adoption momentum has begun to wane. The report found that 3.6% of U.S. smartphone subscribers used a Windows mobile OS between July and September 2012 but that only 2.9% remained in this category between September and the end of the year. That this downturn occurred precisely as Windows Phone 8 devices started becoming widely available is not particularly auspicious.

Window 8's infusion of 750,000 apps, meanwhile, comes courtesy of the BlueStacks app player. The catch, though, is these aren't native apps; they're from the Android catalogue. BlueStacks has some momentum with this approach, and some Windows 8 users will appreciate the flexibility/ Still, emulated apps aren't a replacement for natives ones. To many, BlueStacks will unavoidably emphasize the dearth of quality apps in the Windows Store.

It's likely no coincidence that Apple's ads began emphasizing the iPad's extensive app catalogue only a week after the Surface Pro went on sale. Apps are crucial to Windows 8's future because Microsoft needs to cultivate consumer appeal to improve its non-existent presence in the tablet space.

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droden212
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droden212,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/27/2013 | 4:41:58 PM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
The consumer PC market is shrinking and the business case for Windows 8 is very weak, especially for firms that have already moved to Windows 7. No matter if you like Windows 8 or not, sales figures can't help but be disappointing when compared to Windows 7. For the first time in a long time, there is legitimate competition - not in a traditional OS vs. OS or app vs. app, but platform vs. platform. It's reminiscent of the early days of the PC, when glasshoused mainframers scoffed at the PC. Microsoft has tried to overcome this - by creating an OS that manages to alienate the old guard desktop users and at the same time doesn't measure up to the current tablet competition. Microsoft continues to act as if it can do whatever it likes and users will just accept it. Well, mainframes are still around too,they're just not the market force they once were.
Mike_Acker
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Mike_Acker,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2013 | 11:48:02 AM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
msft is fighting a Classic Battle against Open Source: them against the General Computer Community . it's a guaranteed loss unless you can monopolize the market. erosion is well under way and will accelerate now that they are attempting to push w8 into the market .

the old "their stuff don't work with our stuff therefore their stuff is defective" only works while you hold a monopoly position . Open Standards like ISO will soon put the lie to the claim but there will still remain a lot of market inertia .

except that w8 can very easily help energize the revolt -- as if the security problem were not enough by itself
Mike_Acker
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Mike_Acker,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2013 | 11:19:35 AM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
my first experience with windows/8

my sister in law bought one, stating no one would sell her a windows/7 unit

she was at a total loss as to how to work it . i could have sat her down in front of my Linux/Ubuntu unit and she would have come up to speed more quickly

Tech-e
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Tech-e,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 4:38:13 PM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
It may be a simple fix, but what does it say for our society that placing the Start button (which is less efficient than Win8's global search) would cause upgrades to "fly off the shelves"...
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 2:12:46 PM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
On a related note, as W8 web traffic grew a meager 0,4% of the total, ChromeOS web traffic exploded 7 fold...
Palpatine
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Palpatine,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 11:07:44 AM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
Windows GUI was great and sold well for two decades.
Zune-like tiles GUI s*cks bad and failed everywhere.
Now they glued tiles before windows, and Windows 8 is falling like a brick.
Even this month, with the release of Office 2013 and Surface Pro, the market share increase was just 0.4%, even an epic fail like Vista increased 1-2%/month at launch!
WinRT/Metro is a content delivery environment, just like iPad and Android ecosystems: MS with W8 plainly said: I surrender, I'm no longer willing to provide you a platform where OEMs and developers can be independent in distribution and make money, I'm just going to clone Apple's and Google's business plan... 5 years late!
Hoping to make money in a now mature market like Apple and Google did 5 years ago when the market was exploding! Totally crazy.
It is the worst business plan I've ever seen, and it's quickly killing Microsoft, see real users adoption figures!
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2013 | 5:24:04 PM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
Yeah, sure, whatever, fail.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2013 | 2:13:27 AM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
So, I took it upon myself to "bite the bullet" and try out Windows 8 on my primary workstation at home (dual quad core Xeon, 12 GB of RAM, SAS RAID array with 15k drives). Been running it a few days now and I can say that I'm not thrilled with it to the point that I can't come up with a possible business case where anyone in an enterprise should upgrade to it, period.

This system flat out flew with even a munged up installation of Windows 7 Ultimate. Now, with Windows 8, I feel like my Android tablet has better responsiveness when compared to the Metro UI. Sure, there are neat features - the Windows 8 app store, having Live Tiles on the main screen, etc. But, these neat features really don't improve anything with regards to my personal home use case.

As far as the GUI goes - absolutely, it makes your PC as easy to use as your tablet. That's great, if you want a uniform GUI between your PC and your tablet and have a Microsoft tablet. Again, I'm somewhat of a dinosaur as I believe the pinnacle of GUI design was IRIX or OpenLook, back when compute cycles cost more and the idea of using those cycles just to render the console was seen as a waste.

@ePractical - Windows 7 got a lot of upgrade licenses when it launched because of just how bad of a failure that Vista was. People wanted to get out of Vista or get around the landmine that Vista was by going straight from XP to 7. I've done my share of those migrations (XP to 7) - even as late as last year and I know of organizations that are still relying on XP as their primary desktop because they haven't migrated to 7 yet. Honestly, I don't see a compelling reason for them to go to 8 over 7 at this point.

Quite frankly, I'm going back to Windows 7 on this system... 8 cores and 12 GB should run ANY modern OS with little to no application load in a pretty snappy fashion.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Strategist
2/26/2013 | 12:49:50 PM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
"I've used Windows Phone since it first came out in 2010. I now have my desktop and two laptops running Windows 8."

Yes, but you got an employee discount.
Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Strategist
2/26/2013 | 12:46:51 PM
re: Windows 8: Microsoft's Progress Debated
==--
Sanity?

Ain't happnin' until Gates wakes up and lets the board fire his buddy.

Frankly, I hope he never does. This is a car-wreck kind of spectacle. For once, an arrogant, incompetent manager is going down in flame 'n shame and I like watching it unfold.
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