3 min read

Microsoft's Influence Fading Fast: Gartner

Given an exploding universe of tablets and smartphones, Microsoft faces an entirely new competitive situation. Windows 8's "schizophrenic" user experience hasn't helped, Gartner analyst says.
Microsoft is clearly aware of these trends, at least some of which were foreseeable. Enterprise sales of Windows 8 were always going to be soft, not only because companies are still recouping Windows 7 migration costs but also because Windows 8 is most valuable when coupled with new, touch-enabled hardware, something in which cash-strapped IT departments are not currently prepared to invest. Microsoft has therefore looked to consumers to carry Windows 8 into their homes and, via BYOD programs, into the enterprise.

Milanesi emphasized there is a difference between Microsoft recognizing trends and Microsoft correctly responding to them. She suggested the company "needs to relax its obsession with the enterprise." Even though Microsoft has endeavored to court consumers with Windows 8, she said the OS's attempt to shoehorn a traditional desktop experience into a touch-oriented package has created a "schizophrenic" user experience.

According to Milanesi, the IT managers with whom Gartner works would actually be happy if all their crucial apps and programs were available within the tablet-oriented Live Tile interface. Windows 8 instead forces users to jump between the new UI and the traditional desktop interface, an experience many users have criticized as disjointed and counterintuitive.

Rather than offering a compromised solution for both consumers and workers, Milanesi said, Microsoft should focus on the former group. "If they get the consumer, they will eventually get the enterprise."

She said that recent Windows Blue rumors suggest Microsoft is making progress. An alleged push toward cheap 8-inch Windows 8 tablets, for example, will help. And she believes Windows RT, which has been close to stillborn so far, can carve out a role as long as device prices drop.

But Microsoft still faces obstacles, because it is playing from behind in the consumer market. Thanks in part to Microsoft's slow start, Gartner projects that by 2017, Android's claim over personal devices will far outpace the Windows share. What's more, the firm believes Apple's software will end up running on about as many machines as Microsoft's, leaving Microsoft, at best, one of three major OSes in the mix.

"It becomes obvious Microsoft has a problem," Milanesi said.

Microsoft can slow its losses by providing richer consumer experiences, a process the company is already pursuing with efforts to increase its number of apps, said Milanesi. Even so, the road is littered with obstacles.

"People say if all the legacy apps were Live Tiles, it would be fine," Milanesi said. "But how long before SAP and Oracle would develop for something different than traditional Microsoft platforms?"

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