re: Windows Blue: How Will Windows 8 Evolve?
Thanks for the message. It's a provocative point, and you're not the first one to raise it.
Still, I'd be surprised if it goes that far. Microsoft gets a lot of grief, but it's still a company with $60 billion in the bank and a lot of resources. Windows 8 is a big transition, which makes some initial struggles inevitable. I think Microsoft knew that enterprise sales would be soft for at least a year; analysts agreed on as much before the OS launched. Remond certainly hoped for more from consumers, sure, but there are still variables that could turn that around. An analyst recently told me that though Microsoft would have been thrilled with a bigger splash, the company's nowhere near panicked about its progress. I can buy that argument.
A lot of narratives are still being written. I think a few things have to happen before the outlook turns apocalyptic.
If Windows Blue (or whatever) comes along without addressing usability issues, that would be disappointing. Even so, I agree that apps might be the biggest deal; people will forget about some of their UI dissatisfaction if developers can spin awesome experiences out of the platform. If Redmond can give programmers the right motivation and direction, a lot could change. I've heard some criticism about Microsoft in this regard, but I also see the company making moves with developers in mind.
Other forthcoming factors... New Ultrabooks with better Intel chips, new tablet form factors-- for matters to turn truly bleak, those developments would have to fall flat through the rest of the year, and adoption rates would have to continue flat-lining over the same period. There are also companies experimenting with limited Windows 8 deployments right now. If productive use cases emerge and more compelling devices hit the market, the OS could pick up steam. If companies revert to iPads after testing out Windows 8, that'll be a different story. There's also the success or failure of Chromebooks, as well as whatever Apple, Samsung and Google come up with. It's one thing for Microsoft to catch up with, say, the current version of iOS, which is in an incremental upgrade phase. It's another thing if Apple somehow has anther revolution waiting in the wings. Plus, there's all the revenue Microsoft generates that isn't tied to the future of Windows 8.
So I don't think Microsoft is on the fast track to ruin. The bigger concern, I think, is that its best days might be behind it. I don't think Windows 8's slow progress is a sign of doom; most experts agree that adoption will gradually pick up, and the experts have been pretty accurate on Windows 8 so far. But a lot of the work we'll do in the future will involve interfaces that look more like iOS than Windows 7. Microsoft needs a presence in both worlds, and the longer it takes for its mobile plan to gain traction, the more entrenched people become in their current workflows.
But we'll see. A lot of people initially got the iPhone and iPad wrong; thanks to the consumerization trend, this stuff can turn quickly.
--Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor