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Windows 8 Momentum Sputters

Windows 8 keeps gaining users but its growth is losing steam. With Windows Blue and new hardware still months off, Microsoft's newest OS isn't likely to rebound right away.

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Windows 8 adoption continued to rise in March, according to the latest findings released by Internet market share consultant Net Applications. Nonetheless, Windows 8's momentum has sputtered since its unexceptional debut.

No clear catalysts for growth are looming this month, so modest gains could continue for the immediate future. Microsoft is readying Windows Blue, its first major Windows 8 upgrade, however, and also has launched new campaigns to attract app developers. The company hopes these efforts and an upcoming wave of new tablets and PCs will revitalize interest throughout the summer and fall.

Windows 8 amassed a 3.17% market share in March, up from 2.67% in February, said Net Applications. Although the uptick represents progress, Windows 8's gains still trail what Windows 7 had achieved by the same time. What's more, Microsoft's touch-oriented OS has been slowing down. After launching at the end of October, Windows 8 adoption increased 57.8% between November and December, before dropping to 31.4% between December and January and 18.1% between January and February. March's growth rate of 18.7% will likely do little to silence the OS's critics but it at least stemmed what had been precipitous month-over-month declines in momentum.

The Net Applications stats generally agree with those published by StatCounter, another service that tracks OS popularity. StatCounter paints a slightly rosier picture for Windows 8, asserting that the new OS has snared 3.9% of the OS field, a 23.4% improvement relative to February. However, StatCounter also says Windows 8's adoption rate is dwindling and that the OS's most recent uptick was its smallest yet.

[ InformationWeek reporter Kevin Casey is not impressed by Windows Blue. Read Tell Me Again: Why Rush Into Windows 8? ]

Net Applications draws its figures from 40,000 websites and 160,000 unique visitors. StatCounter, in contrast, analyzes around 15 billion page views but does not consider the number of individual users.

Regardless of accounting differences, Windows 8's growth so far does not seem to have benefited much from the declining appeal of aging alternatives. Indeed, Windows 7 doesn't seem to be losing ground to its newest singling. It has topped the Net Application rankings since August, when it surpassed Windows XP. Although Windows 7's market share dipped to 44.48% in January after crossing 45% for the first time in December, it has since rebounded to a 44.73% share. It has actually expanded its grasp, albeit marginally, since Windows 8 went on sale.

Windows XP, meanwhile, dropped from 39.82% in November to 38.73% in March, suggesting Windows 8 might be gaining at XP's expense. Some Windows Vista users have also evidently switched OSes in recent months -- the unpopular Vista contracted from 5.7% of the market in November to just under 5% in March. Mac OS 10.8, the newest version of Apple's platform, controlled a relatively small 2.65% of the field in March. Even so, it also has gained users since Windows 8 launched.

In many ways, Windows 8's continued struggles are not surprising. Enterprises are still heavily invested in Windows 7, making it unlikely that cash-strapped IT departments would push for Microsoft's newest wares. Although Windows 8's mobile-friendly interface might justify some business uses, the OS is most useful when coupled with new hardware, making its immediate adoption among businesses all the more cost-prohibitive.

To an extent, soft enterprise sales were foreseeable, even before Windows 8 launched. The platform's struggles among consumers have been a bit more surprising. Given that discounted Windows 8 licenses are no longer available and that the first round of touch-oriented ultrabooks and Surface products failed to inspire consumer enthusiasm, Microsoft hopes to re-energize its new OS in coming months with Windows Blue, an alleged push for more cheap 7-inch tablets, a more competitive app catalogue, and ultrabooks powered by Intel's upcoming Haswell chips, which are expected to deliver tablet-like battery life without skimping on processing power. These developments should restore some of Windows 8's lost momentum -- but the question remains: by how much?

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User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2013 | 5:07:49 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
The only W8 is making progress is by being sold on new machines.
Anyone who has used it on a new machine will NOT install it as an upgrade to ANYTHING. Because it's NOT an upgrade. It's like trading in your Cadillac Escalade to get a Prius...
User Rank: Apprentice
4/3/2013 | 3:28:36 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
I love how people such as yourself confuse "apps" for applications. Sure, Metro "apps" will be plentiful and look/function just fine. But in an actual work environment, people need capabilities that simplistic "apps" just can't provide. That's where APPLICATIONS come in, and the FACT is that the Metro environment is woefully incapable and ill-suited to providing the capabilities that APPLICATIONS require.

Your example of OneNote being a portent for the future is hilarious. It's a simplistic note taking app. I think it's far more telling that even on Windows RT, Microsoft's own Office applications STILL run in desktop mode. What does that say? It says that APPLICATIONS that provide any measure of real, in-depth capabilities require a UI driven by a precision input device, not the senior citizen telephone button sized touch-centric Metro UI.

Please share what real, serious APPLICATION developers are already developing Metro versions of their software. Is Autodesk making a Metro version of AutoCAD? Nope. Is Adobe making Metro versions of Photoshop, InDesign or any of their other high-end graphics programs? Nope. Is Microsoft itself even making Metro versions of any of their programs? Office? Nope. Visual Studio? Nope.

You (and Microsoft) seem to be under the impression that no one uses a computer to do anything beyond taking notes, sending e-mail or browsing the web. This is a dangerous (for Microsoft) level of cluelessness, as they're very quickly turning their core asset (Windows) into something that's virtually unusable for anything outside recreational time wasting. One of my two main applications has just been ported to Linux. If/when the other does, I'll be able to switch away from Microsoft entirely and never look back.
User Rank: Apprentice
4/3/2013 | 1:14:21 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
Lets just end the madness. Sign the petition
User Rank: Apprentice
4/3/2013 | 1:14:15 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
I've been using Microsoft operating systems since Windows 98 --- and I STILL don't get Microsoft's business model associated with people purchasing a product that is defective from day one and in need of constant repair via updates --- updates which seem to frequently be incompatable with other non-Microsoft programs, which then lead to malfunctions, which then require me to STOP downloading Windows Updates --- leading to the eventual failure of my computer.
I have to admit, though, that it takes a real genus to get people to purchase and rely upon defective products --- and I've noted that with every new version of Windows, there are greater and greater problems, increasing needs for increasing updates, and ever-shortening product life.
And the icing on the cake is Microsoft's refusal to provide free tech support for its defective software when the software comes pre-loaded in a computer --- in my case, an HP computer --- thus sifting responsibility for tech support to HP, which may be great for people that speak Hindi, but which has rarely helped me solve my software problems --- with HP's alternative mode of "help" being to suggest that its customers take several weeks off to blindly grope through an encyclopedic volume of information in hope of accidentally stumbling upon something useful buried somewhere in thousands of pages of irrelevant information.
Of course, those are just my opinions, and I don't claim to be an expert concerning digital technology --- but the FACT is that after wrestling with Windows 7, the last thing on my list of things I'd like to try doing before I die is checking out the next version of Windows.
Keep up the good work, Microsoft. Meanwhile, I'll continue searching for something that doesn't require me to deal with your latest nighmare product and your non-existent coustomer service.
User Rank: Strategist
4/2/2013 | 11:03:19 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
I have regretfully come to the conclusion that Microsoft has no idea what it is doing. Smells like Eastman Kodak to me. Personally, I'm hedging my bets on the future of Personal computing, I'm looking into the superficially similar futures that Google and Unbutu offer.

Both seem to offer a coherent and comprehensive vision of the future, but for the time being, I'm quite impressed with what I've seen with Unbutu Linux as a platform for serious photography. It has made me wonder if an Unbutu based phone or tablet is in my future.

I'm not willing to make any predictions, and for sure I'm not willing to spend a bunch of money yet. But there are alternatives to Windows that didn't really exist when Vista came out.
Faye Kane, homeless brain
Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Strategist
4/2/2013 | 9:07:51 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
First of all, you work for MS marketing, and not saying so is dishonest.

Secondly, what you're saying is "it doesn't matter what you developers or users want, like, or prefer. We don't even care if you hate 8 and find it grotesquely unusable. We're forcing you all to use the metro interface anyway, and if you don't like it, tough tiddies."

Well, as a matter of fact, we DON'T like it. And despite your smug dismissiveness, we particularly don't like the reason you're doing it: because Ballmer wants a piece of the tablet and telephone market that he has thus-far screwed up in acquiring a share of.

Well, he's screwing up again, marketing man. And you get paid to deny it, as obvious as it is.

How many of your buddies in Redmond cubicles use 8? Probably all if they're forced to, none if not. How many of them actually LIKE IT, prefer it over 7?

The true answer is NONE. We know because no one anywhere who's not paid to say so likes reaching out to their screen to do anything either. And even MS acknowledges that win8 with a mouse is a bizarre experience compared to the standard menu interface.

All day every day, I have a touch screen 8 inches from my faceGă÷so close that I have to use reading glasses. I do it because it gives the effect of a 42" screen at a normal distance when watching videos. (I figure someone has to view every single porn on the internet, so I've selflessly taken on that burden myself.)

Touch extensions for 7 are loaded, and even though the screen is much easier for me to reach than for an office worker, I almost NEVER use touch. Why? Because the mouse is more accurate, it doesn't require moving my whole arm, and my hand is already on the mouse.

Well, one hand is.

In 2020, when 7 goes away, I'm moving the four machines I babysit for people to windowed Linux.

Enterprise IT managers, of which I used to be one before wising up and slacking off, will NEVER install 8 because:

1) they've tried it themselves, and
2) they know their users would form a mob, get the fire axe from the stairwell, and pay him a "visit".

That's how bad 8 is. You know it, and everyone knows it. If I were you, I'd be embarrassed to deny it.

...And all your propaganda on IT comments sections can't change that.

-faye kane
User Rank: Ninja
4/2/2013 | 7:38:49 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
So how come that Win8 users need to install ClassicShell to make Win8 usable? ClassicShell only reinstates what Win8 beta testers told Microsoft in endless forum posts. That it then still requires third party tools to fix the flawed design shows only that Microsoft is resistant to customer feedback. Microsoft does not care, but exclusively banks on the Microsoft-only think in the enterprise.
You ding Metro and the ribbon, after removing that from Win8 all is left is a castrated version of Win7 with even worse hardware support. While I agree with all that I wonder what then is the purpose to shell out good money for Win8 when it really has no benefits. A smaller footprint is not a benefit when I can get a 1TB drive for cheap and 16 GB of DDR3 RAM for the same price point. Speed is subjective and depending on what you do. I found Win 8 to be on par with Win7 if not slower. Leaves me wondering what you mean with "hugely adaptable". Out of the box I can change a few things, but I cannot replace the window manager, extended OS applications, and such. Any one of the Linux distros is hugely adaptable, Win 8 is definitely not!
User Rank: Apprentice
4/2/2013 | 6:40:54 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
I can't see how Windows 7 will ever be desirable in an enterprise like the one I'm employed by - we have many people doing productive work, using a variety of tools in a windowed environment. A touchscreen-oriented OS adds nothing productivity-wise in this type of application. If MS eventually kills the desktop part of Win 8, and the ability to run traditional Windows desktop apps, it would be even more worthless.

For myself, at home, I think I'd likely switch to Mac (or maybe some flavor of Linux, if it is ever really desktop-ready) rather than muck around with Microsoft's ugly and ill-considered foisting of a tablet interface on a PC OS.
User Rank: Apprentice
4/2/2013 | 5:25:00 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
Windows 8 would not be selling as well as it is if the big box stores weren't pushing Windows 8 PCs only, causing the computer buying public to believe that Windows 7 PCs were no longer available.
User Rank: Apprentice
4/2/2013 | 2:54:29 PM
re: Windows 8 Momentum Sputters
App developers are letting Win32 software sell itself, and are switching to iOS
and Android, not WinRT.
The reason is simple and self evident, if you write an RT app you will compete with Win32 software, that run on a 1-2 orders of magnitude wider user base, AND WinRT software, and you must hope Microsoft has not a similar software to sell or good luck distributing only on MS Store, a problem that never bothered Win32 developers (that you have to fight with).
It is not the kind of environment a developer would like to mess with, especially if you have 2 or 3 already thriving alternatives.
Desktop compatibility is not a plus for the platform 1) it is an huge problem for making palatable developing for WinRT 2) it is an huge drawback for majors asking for a more close platform for controlled content delivery 3) it is not appealing to end users if YOU spend 1,5 Billion dollars to convince them to abandon the desktop!
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