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Windows 8 Adoption Limps On

Windows 8 is making only marginal progress and Windows RT continues to flop. That adds to the pressure on Windows Blue.

8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
8 Things Microsoft Could Do To Save Windows 8
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Windows 8 adoption picked up slightly in April but remained sluggish overall, according to the latest findings from market-tracking firm Net Applications.

Falling in line with recent reports of the PC market's ongoing struggles, the data reasserts that tablets have cut into the market for traditional computers. Despite this shift in consumer preference, and despite recent indications that Win8 has accrued momentum among tablet users, the report also suggests that Microsoft has yet to gain traction in the emerging mobile computing market.

Net Applications found that all Windows versions except Windows 8 lost ground in April. Windows 7 remained the top OS in the world, with a 44.72% share, and Windows XP was second, with 38.31%. Windows Vista continued its inexorable march toward obsolescence but still hung on to 4.75% of the field. Windows 8 reached an all-time high of 3.82%, up from 3.17% at the end of March.

[ Curious about the next Windows operating system? Read Windows Blue: What We Know. ]

For Microsoft, the data contains several silver linings. After debuting inauspiciously last fall, Windows 8 suffered declines in adoption rate throughout the holidays and early 2013. The controversial OS gained some momentum in February, however, and has since continued to make incremental progress. Win8's current market share represents a 20.5% improvement over its share at the end of March, giving the OS its best month-over-month growth of 2013.

Microsoft is probably encouraged by Windows XP's longevity as well. Support for the OS will end in less than a year, which means that many businesses will spend the rest of 2013 upgrading to a new platform. Given Microsoft's prominent role in existing IT infrastructure, many of these upgrades will involve a newer version of Windows.

Windows 8's balance between legacy desktop tasks and touch-oriented tablet apps still has many enterprises cautious. Windows 7, in contrast, is a proven commodity. Win8 is also at a disadvantage because of its touch-centric design; to get the most out of the new OS, businesses would need to invest in costly new hardware. Windows 7, on the other hand, can simply be installed on many of the machines currently running XP.

Still, the report speaks more to Microsoft's challenges than its opportunities. Earlier this month, a Strategy Analytics report suggested that Windows 8, though an underperformer on traditional PCs, had made solid inroads on tablets. Net Applications, however, came to bleaker conclusions; it reported that "Windows 8 Touch" and "Windows 8 RT Touch," categories that were tracked separately from the main "Windows 8" subset, accounted for only .02% and .00% of the market, respectively.

To be clear, this grim appraisal from Net Applications doesn't contradict the Strategy Analytics research as much as re-contextualize it. The earlier report found that Windows 8 tablets accounted for 7.5% of all tablets sold in the first quarter of 2013. This number seemingly belies the OS's lowly rank in the Net Applications data -- but divergent survey methodologies explain much of the difference. Strategy Analytics studied the number of Windows 8 units shipped from Microsoft and its OEMs, which isn't a clear indication of how many devices were actually purchased. Net Applications, in contrast, tracks Web traffic from individual users, arguably providing a clearer picture of platform popularity.

The Net Applications data also contextualizes each OS within the scope of all active products, making it fundamentally dissimilar from the Strategy Analytics report. The latter study was confined to tablets and a three-month sales window, making the data a measure of Windows 8's progress relative to the concurrent progress of competing mobile platforms. The Net Applications report, in contrast, compares Win8 to platforms that have had years to build a user base -- a juxtaposition that few new products are likely to win. The bottom line? The takeaway from the two reports is that although Win8 has made modest progress, possibly with extra momentum from tablets, it is still a minor player in the overall computing landscape.

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Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2013 | 11:00:45 PM
re: Windows 8 Adoption Limps On
Thanks for your thoughts, AustinIT. I think there's a good chance that you're right. Ultrabooks have failed to catch on for a number of reasons: price, lack of touchscreen models, competition from tablets and the MacBook Air, etc. Windows 8 has likewise failed to catch on for a number of reasons: the UI dissatisfaction, lack of quality apps, the Win8/Win RT confusion, a series of questionable PR and advertising decisions, everything that also hampered the Ultrabooks, etc. But none of these reasons nullify Win8's chances to rebound once new devices and Windows Blue are on the market.

Microsoft, as you noted, is pointed in the right direction in many regards, at least based on rumors and the leaked Windows 8.1 builds. They still haven't addressed all criticisms, and they still need to execute their plans. But, yeah, I also suspect things will look different once we hit the back-to-school and holiday seasons. That doesn't mean that Win8 will surge to Windows 7's level, or that Apple and Android won't continue outselling Microsoft in the consumer and enterprise tablet markets. But after a rough start, I think Windows 8 is starting to trend up.

Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 9:44:24 PM
re: Windows 8 Adoption Limps On
Business adoption lags well behind the curve when a new OS comes out. That's natural because it requires a LOT of planning, testing and training in order to introduce it into production. As if that's not bad enough, Win8 is arriving on the heels of in-process Win7 migrations. It may be well over a year before business adoption gets started in earnest.
Win8 already allows quite a bit of customization of the Start screen. The 8.1 (blue) release will cure most of the issues. Plus, look at Stardock's Start8 product. You will like it.
Bob Gill
Bob Gill,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 9:30:13 PM
re: Windows 8 Adoption Limps On
We went to Windows 7 last year. In 2 to 3 years, we'll go to whatever Windows OS is at least 1 year old.

Flop? Maybe RT, but for the regular OS, it's just the normal adoption curve.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 8:02:41 PM
re: Windows 8 Adoption Limps On
Windows 8 is competing with its predecessors more than on any other front. The fact that it is doing well (by comparison) in the mobile market speaks well to its future.

Microsoft still has a lot to do to get this thing to gel but they are making mostly the right moves to get there. Things will be quite different going into the Holiday season and early next year.
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2013 | 7:01:07 PM
re: Windows 8 Adoption Limps On
The problem isn't that Windows 8 is bad, but rather that after having a START button for over a decade, taking it out (and why?) caught many people unaware. Us tech people need to remember than most people's lives don't revolve around keeping up with various operating systems. They have using a computer in a certain way engraved in their brains, so when many bought new PCs over the busy holidays they were unpleasantly surprised. Microsoft should have made it a CHOICE at system 1st boot as to whether you wanted the Metro, er I mean Modern UI interface, or one closer to Windows 7, but with an icon for getting to the Modern UI anytime you wanted. Closer integration of the browsers in both interfaces would not have been as confusing either.

As far as tablet OSs go, do we really NEED or WANT another one? Microsoft is late coming to the game. Most consumers have made that choice (Apple iOS or a flavor of Android) a long time ago, and don't seem to be in a rush to abandon either one. Without a killer app to pull people away from either camp, I don't see Windows 8 RT or Surface Pro making much headway.

To be fair, once tablets have more computing power, consumers will (eventually) want an OS that is more powerful than a phone OS. The question is whether Microsoft is too far ahead of the game on that, especially given the price points of the more powerful tablets so far compared to what most people are willing to pay.
So, it's like they are providing the worst of each world right now: An operating system that alienates desktop and lap top users, but yet doesn't appeal to tablet or phone users.
What will Microsoft do? Drop back and punt, or try to stick it out until tablets with more performance come down in price such that more consumers might be willing to try them?
At the very least they should put back in the ye olde START button for desktop users. No one I know wants to be reaching for a touch screen at their desktop all the time when the mouse/keyboard interface works just fine.
Thank God Windows 7 will be around a long, long time...
User Rank: Moderator
5/2/2013 | 6:45:14 PM
re: Windows 8 Adoption Limps On
I like Windows. I think it is a great environment for business, far superior to linux or OSX for central IT's ability to control what is happening.

I don't think Microsoft is pushing Win8 to businesses like it should. there are several gpo's to turn off the portions of Win8 that a specific business won't tolerate - like accessing the App store, using picture passwords, Metro user-info app sharing, basically all of the metro stuff.
If Microsoft would just get off its high horse and either give a lot more control over the start screen or allow a start menu, businesses would be a lot more tolerant of it.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2013 | 6:23:30 PM
re: Windows 8 Adoption Limps On
I hope Windows 8 is another nail Microsoft's coffin. If they do do like Apple and build a GUI on top of Linux, they are doomed.
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