Windows 8: Can this OS be saved?

Summary:Windows 8 was a bold bet by Microsoft to link PC, tablet and phone interfaces. Is it too soon to say the bet flopped?

Ed Bott

Ed Bott

Yes, it can be saved

or

No, it can't be saved

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Best Argument: Yes, it can be saved

54%
46%

Audience Favored: Yes, it can be saved (54%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Intelligent design and evolution, together

Windows 8 isn’t static code in a shrink-wrapped box, like Windows XP or Vista. It’s a living organism, made partly from familiar bits that have evolved over the last two decades, with several new strands of DNA tossed in.

It’s part of a much larger hardware-apps-services ecosystem with roots that also go back decades.

Windows 8 lays the groundwork for some huge long-term changes : big shifts in the user interface, a brand-new app model, and deep connections to online services like SkyDrive, Outlook.com, and Office.com.

Those services have evolved significantly since Windows 8 launched six months ago. Windows itself will make another big set of changes this summer with Windows 8.1 (Blue), which is much more than a service pack. New Office apps for Windows 8 will arrive this year as well.

Those are big changes. But the Windows 8 system you use today will include all of them by the end of the year.

Windows 8 doesn’t need to be saved. It just needs to evolve.

This is not a debate. This is an autopsy.

The formal question may be, "Can this OS be saved?" But, we already know the answer. It's a dead OS walking.

This isn't a matter of opinion. The numbers don't lie.

Windows 8's market numbers are even lower than Vista's pathetic ranking at a similar point in their sales cycle. Even if you buy the most optimistic reading of NetMarketShare's numbers , Windows 8, after being in the market for
six months, has just 3.31% of the desktop marketplace—that's just over what Vista had with 3.02% in
three months.

You can—and we will—argue why this has happened. The cold hard sales numbers mattermore than any arguments we can make. Looking ahead, IDC and Gartner ) are going to overwhelm Windows-based PCs in the next few years. But, there's nothing new there. Goldman Sachs and KPCB already have Windows far behind Apple's iOS and Google's Android .

You can think all you want that Windows 8 can be saved,  but unless you start buying Windows 8 PCs, it doesn't matter. This is capitalism, not democracy. It's your dollars that count, not clicking a like button.

Now, onto Windows 8's causes of death. First, we cut into Metro with Stryker saw...

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Are my debaters standing by?

    We have a lot of ground to cover today, so we'll be starting at 11am EDT /8am PDT sharp and my questions will be coming fast and furious.

    Readers: At 11am EDT, this page will start refreshing automatically every time a new question or answer is posted. Thanks for joining us!

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Standing by...


    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Looking forward to this


    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Windows 8 was a bold bet by Microsoft to link PC, tablet and phone interfaces.

     Is it too soon to say the bet flopped?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Of course it’s too soon.

    This isn’t a winner-take-all game. If you want to compare it to a table game in Vegas, try seven-card stud. There are still several rounds of betting to go, and Microsoft has the potential for a winning hand if the company plays its cards right.

    And it’s terribly short-sighted to focus only on the interface. There’s also an impressive collection of cloud services that are evolving along with Windows 8, including SkyDrive and Office 365. Those work across devices, too, even across platforms. The end-to-end experience, the collective impact of all those devices and services, is the really big bet.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Let's take a look at the tablet and smartphone market shall we?

    The good researchers at NetMarketShare found that in March 2013 () the number one mobile/smartphone platform was Apple's iPad, followed by the iPod, then Java ME—which just goes to show there's still a lot of feature phones out there—then Android 2.3, a bunch of other Androids, then Symbian—see featurephones—and finally not Windows Phone 8, not Windows RT or Windows 8 but Windows Phone 7.5. It came in eighth with 1.48-percent.

    Looking farther down the list we find the next version of Windows to be represented is Windows CE, which was state of the art back in late 2006. It had 0.09 -percent of the market. At the bottom of their list we finally find... Windows Phone 7 with 0.02-percent. It can't be that bad can it? Sure it can.

    Look at comScore's smartphone numbers  if you like. In their latest analysis, it's Android on top, followed by iOS, with BlackBerry a declining third, and all of Microsoft's platforms summed together coming up to 3.2%. How
    much of that is made up of the Windows 8 family? It would appear to be darn little.

    Do I really need to spell this out? There is no perceptible synergy between the three platforms. Microsoft has utterly failed to gain any traction in either the smartphone or tablet market.

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How much of Windows 8's demand is related to hardware?

     I've maintained that the selection is too vast and like throwing devices against the wall. 

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    The economy sucks worldwide...

    ...PCs are better built and therefore lasting longer, and Windows 8 really makes the most sense on touchscreen hardware. Not to mention Windows 7 is well supported and well known. Surprisingly, even with all of those negatives, Windows 8 is being adopted at about the same pace as Windows XP. And that OS seems to have done OK.

    The real key is delivering touch-enabled devices. Google’s new super-Chromebook, the Pixel, is a touch device. Apple was just awarded a patent for a touchscreen MacBook that looks remarkably like a Surface Pro. Anyone who uses a touch-enabled device for any length of time quickly discovers that they’re trying to make things happen by touching the PC’s screen, too.

    As economies of scale kick in and touch support becomes more common, the “Aha” moment will happen for many people. I think high-end, touch-enabled Ultrabooks are going to be very popular with business buyers, especially when powered by the next generation of power-efficient Intel chips (Haswell).

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    I wouldn't say that it was too vast, but I would say it was too confusing

    We, the technically adept writers and readers of ZDNet, know that Windows 8 was designed to show to its best advantage with a touch screen, but this point has never been emphasized enough for ordinary users in the market.

    So should Janet User buy a convertible? A touch-enabled ultrabook? A dedicated tablet? A Surface? A phablet!? If you came up to me and told me I had to recommend a Windows 8 device—nothing else would do—I couldn't give you an easy answer. There isn't one. Maybe by year's end, there will be a clear "best" Windows 8 hardware design but I can't see it from here.

    Worse still there are two incompatible versions of Windows 8—the real thing—and Windows RT, which only looks like Windows 8 in its Metro mode. Again, we knew that RT is a very limited subset of Windows 8—heck it still doesn't support Outlook ! -- but I know for a fact that many Surface RT buyers didn't have a clue that their devices weren't coming with full- powered Windows.

    These hardware problems have been self-inflected by Microsoft. As I reported when Microsoft announced that it would be releasing its own tablet/laptops, the Surface line, its one time partners were mad as hell. Their mood, with Windows 8's pathetic sales, hasn't improved any. Even Microsoft's Windows 8 allies, such as Asus and Samsung, aren't happy

    The end result? Users are confused, so they're less likely to buy, and OEMs are unhappy so they're less likely to want to sell. Is it any wonder that Google Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks are now coming from Acer, HP, Lenovo and Samsung.

     

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Decline of the PC?

    How much of Windows 8's slow adoption been because of the decline of the PC?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Decline of the PC?

    The evidence shows it’s really more of a transformation in PC form factors . I might quibble with Gartner’s numbers, but I think they are basically right to see big growth in “ultramobile” devices (which can act like a tablet or a full-strength PC) and lower-powered tablets designed primarily for media consumption and light computing tasks.

    If you look at Windows 8, you can see that it’s aimed at both of those segments, which are primed to grow at very high rates over the next few years. There’s every reason to think that Windows 8.1 tablets can quickly climb into a 10 percent share, especially if they begin appearing in smaller form factors at lower price tags .

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    First things first. PCs are Not going away. Period. End of statement.

    The mainframe never died, neither will PCs. Both may no longer be fashionable but they'll always be needed.

    That said, the PC market decline and Windows 8's failure have re-enforced each other. I still think that had Microsoft just given Windows users the Windows 8 under-the-hood improvements without Metro and with true Windows 7 Aero interface , I think we wouldn't be having this discussion. Windows 8's launch would have been successful. PC sales numbers would still be down, but they'd be much better than are
    currently.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Tweener devices?

    Do you think there's hope for tweener devices that can reportedly do it all?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    The Holy Grail of modern devices

    I presume by “tweener” you mean hybrids that can shift quickly between tablet and a more traditional portable PC form factor? It’s the Holy Grail of modern devices. Nobody really wants to pack a smartphone and a tablet and a PC on a business trip. And yet that’s what most business travelers do these days.

    I think hybrid devices (including the inevitable entry from Apple) will carve out a small but important niche, primarily for business users.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    I don't think so. But, I also don't think that's Windows 8's fault.


    "Tweener" device in any technology are rarely successful. It's one thing to incorporate functionality, say the way smartphones and tablets include GPS and e-reader features, it's another to try to perform two separate tasks.

    In this particular case, I see tablets as being very useful for information consumers and laptops as being exactly what information producers need. You can use one device for both, but it's not a comfortable fix.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is the Metro UI really a problem?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    People like to complain about change

    People complained about Windows XP’s “Fisher-Price” interface when it was first released. People complained about Windows 95. (How many times did you hear critics joke about having to click the Start button to shut down?) Hey, people complained about OS X and its interface changes.

    People like to complain about change. Most people who complain about the “Metro UI” are really grumbling about two things: Microsoft took away the Start menu, and some of the gestures for controlling the new interface take a bit of learning.

    Seriously, that’s it. We already know that the Start screen will get some fine-tuning in Windows 8.1. You can already see some slight rethinking of the way apps work with the latest refreshes of the Mail and Music apps. There’s definitely room for improvement in the way that Windows 8 introduces itself to a new user, but the grousing about the Metro UI is an overreaction. 

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Let me answer this question with another question

    On a PC--not a tablet, not a phone, not a "Tweener,"--how does Metro make the user experience better? I
    sure don't see anything better about it.

    What I, and many others— perhaps as many as 90% of PC users ? --see is a design disaster.

    Metro requires Windows users to learn a radically different way of doing the same old thing. It was a recipe for failure and that's exactly what happened.  Even people who do use Windows 8 don't seem to use Metro. Instead they head to the desktop and use add-on software like Start8  to give them something like the Windows they know and love.

    Really doesn't it say it all that Stardock's Start8 has been downloaded more than 3-million times and the CEO reports that the commercial version is selling thousands of copies a day.

     

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Microsoft says they’re planning to move to an annual update calendar.

    Can they pull it off, or will enterprises resist?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    The good news is that enterprises always resist new Windows versions

    (See history lessons here and here and here .) So most of them will be able to watch from the sidelines for the next few years and see how early adopters fare with the first wave of updates. Among enterprise shops, Microsoft has a well-deserved positive reputation for its update technology. In services, they’ve managed to deliver regular, predictable updates for a wide range of products.

    The trick is not breaking compatibility for enterprise customers while innovating more rapidly for consumers and developers. I think they can pull it off. But I won’t be surprised to see some problems in the first couple of years.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Seriously? Update the desktop operating system once a year!?

    Come on! Get real. Over in Linux land, the most anyone will update a commercially supported operating system is once every two or three years. Why? Because users hate it; CFOs don't want to pay for it; and for the IT support staff it's a nightmare.

    Listen, it's hard enough having to security updates every months and service patches every couple of years, but you want to actually change the fundamental operating system every year? Can you imagine how much time it will take, no matter how much you automate the process, to double-check that every application will still work with the OS? To roll it out? To make sure that all the apps work properly?

    If Microsoft wants to chase corporate users to the Mac, Chrome OS, Linux, Virtual desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions, whatever, force the enterprise to update their desktops annually, that will do it.

    Heck, Microsoft is still struggling to get business users off XP , which is more than ten-years old. Do you really think that they're going to talk those customers into annual updates.

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How important is the holiday 2013 season for Windows 8 and Microsoft's interface?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Again with this focus on the interface!

    The real key is having lots and lots of touchscreen devices on the shelves in the holiday season, at a broad range of price points and form factors. That’s especially true of small, inexpensive tablet devices that can showcase Microsoft services.

    But let’s not overestimate the importance of the holiday season. The fourth quarter is important for consumer devices, but businesses will continue to have a big say in Windows’ growth, and they tend to buy on a schedule that is not seasonal.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    I don't think it will be important at all for Windows 8.

    Stick a fork in it, it's done.

    It will be important to Windows Blue, aka Windows 8.1 . Ed calls this evolution, I call it a tacit acknowledgement that Windows 8 failed and that Microsoft had to overhaul both the technology and the marketing to make it attractive to users.

    Here's the problem though. The more I learn about Blue, the more it sounds to me that instead of doing what they should do, and dump Metro and bring back a full-scale Aero style desktop, they're actually going to be re-enforcing the failure that is Metro  by making it even more central to the Windows 8.x experience.

    Here's an old military maxim I learned a long time ago: Never re-enforce failure. Microsoft needs to learn it.

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are Windows 8's biggest strengths?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    I’m very impressed by the internals.

     On new UEFI-based hardware, performance (both in operation and especially in terms of startup and shutdown times) is excellent. There are small but meaningful improvements in Task Manager, File Explorer, and other little stuff that you use regularly.

    The ability to sync settings and files (with SkyDrive integration) is downright magical. If you only have one Windows 8 running in a virtual machine on a Linux box with a local user account, you can’t appreciate this. But when you switch from a desktop PC to a tablet to an Ultrabook and your files and settings just roam with you, that’s very cool.

    The inclusion of Hyper-V virtualization in the Pro edition is awesome. Big improvements in BitLocker make it easy to encrypt a whole drive so your data stays safe if your device is stolen.

    If you’re willing to learn a handful of new interface tricks, all of your Windows 7 software works on the Windows 8 desktop.

    And, to keep beating on this drum, Windows 8 on a touch-enabled device works very well indeed.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    That's easy...

    It really is, once you get past the interface annoyances, the fastest Windows out there. It doesn't leave Windows 7 SP1 in the dust, but it is clearly faster.

    It also has some nice networking features. For example, I really like that with Windows 8 you can track and manage data usage per network. So, for example, you can control how much data your3G/4G connection can use. There's a whole set of related networking features I'd like to see in all OSs and on all devices.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the largest failures?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Windows 8 isn’t broken

    The biggest failure was falling behind in the middle of the last decade, first fighting a battle to make Windows more secure and then cleaning up the mess of Longhorn and Vista.

    The scope of change in Windows 8 (and its successors) is so great that it was inevitable it would be released in phases, with the early phases that we’re in now causing some confusion. But Windows 8 isn’t broken, like Windows Vista was. It doesn’t need a service pack to fix fundamental performance and compatibility problems. It just needs to grow up and for the ecosystem around it to evolve.

    So, failures? I’m sure my worthy opponent will have a list of 5 Ways That Windows 8 Has Failed. But most of those are just disagreements over design decisions or a general distaste for anything that comes from Redmond.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Metro, Metro, and did I mention Metro?

    It also didn't help any that Microsoft stabbed its hardware partners in the back with its Surface line. By competing with its partners, Microsoft alienated its closest friends when it needed them the most.

    Looking at the bigger picture though I can't name a single major feature that makes Windows 8 a clearly better buy than Windows 7 SP1. Since Windows 8's adoption numbers have been so poor , clearly few other people have either.

     

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Can Microsoft afford to have Windows 8 take a revenue back seat to other products?

    Office and all the enterprise products, for instance.

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Um, it already does.

    Microsoft has a dozen billion-dollar businesses in its portfolio right now.

    The same technology that is at the heart of Windows 8 is powering Windows Server 2012. In two or three years, that technology, sufficiently evolved, will begin powering corporate desktops and notebooks.

    Office is already earning more than Windows, and it has significant growth potential in Office 365.

    Xbox is doing pretty well. Windows Phone is growing its share, slowly in the U.S. but much more impressively in parts of the world that have tremendous untapped growth potential.

    And of course corporations are still buying Windows licenses and using them with Windows 7.

    The Windows desktop market is not small, but it’s a small percentage of Microsoft’s overall business.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Can Ballmer swallow his pride?

    To me the question is can Ballmer swallow his pride and give Windows the interface they loved? I doubt it.

    That being the case, and considering that the PC market really is declining and Microsoft is getting nowhere fast on tablets and smartphones, they'll have no choice to double-down on the server and tool and business divisions. The good news is that in the last quarter server and tools did pick up.

    Can they replace Windows? No, but since legacy use of Windows will continue for years still to come, regardless of what happens with the Windows 8 family, Microsoft will long remain profitable. Growth, however, seems out Microsoft's reach short of a radical change at the top. Why yes, I am suggesting that Ballmer is well past his "fire by" date. 

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What would you have done differently with Windows 8?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    If I had a time machine...

    ...and a magic wand that made engineers do things differently, I would have gotten better apps out of the gate. The Bing apps are gorgeous and impressive. The Mail and Music apps were initially a mess and are slowly getting better.

    From a people point of view, I also would have pushed the designers to recognize more fully that the new user experience would be confusing for people. Oddly, this is a case where Microsoft gave too much credit to its user base in terms of their willingness to adapt to change, and they also underestimated the intensity of the negative reaction from a small but meaningful percentage of customers. 

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Dump Metro, check. Work hand in hand with hardware partners, check.

    What else... how about pay attention to your users ? No one, except Microsoft and its most loyal fans, could have been surprised by the reaction to Metro. proclaimed Windows 8 DOA months before it's release. Many other people hated it as well. And lest you think that's just because you think I hate all things Windows, think again. I've praised Windows 7 SP1 in their day. The difference is that they worked great—and still do for that matter—Windows 8... not so much.

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Given Windows 7 works well and is entrenched...

     ...do you think the real touch movement for Microsoft will happen at some point beyond Windows 8? If so, when?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    I’ve said it before but it bears repeating here:

    Windows 7 is the Long Term Support version, and Windows 8 is the experimental release. My opponent should be aware of the difference: it’s the way some of the most popular Linux distros work.

    Windows 8.1 will build on Windows 8. Windows 8.2 the next year will build on its predecessor. And just like every version before it, you’ll see gradual uptakes, not big spikes. 

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    I don't buy that touch is needed for any desktop.

    The windows, icon, menu and pointer (WIMP) interface has worked well for decades and I don't see anything about the PC touch screen that improves on the WIMP experience. When I'm working on a PC, I want my hands on or near the keyboard, I do not want to be reaching towards the screen and I don't think other users do as well.

    I said it earlier and I'll say it again, tablets are for information consumers and PCs are for information producers.  They're not the same thing.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is the future of Windows 8 dependent on RT in any way?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    The question is backwards.

    WinRT is the API for a new class of applications that run on Windows 8 and Windows RT. Windows 8 has the legacy desktop, Windows RT doesn’t.

    So Windows 8 is the platform to choose if you absolutely need legacy desktop apps. Windows RT is the one that jettisons desktop apps. The mix of the two will be determined by how well app developers deliver WinRT apps.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Microsoft had better hope not or Windows 8 really is dead.

     RT was a mistake. RT is a very limited subset of Windows for under-powered devices. If it's only competition was Android tablets and Apple iPads, it might have had a shot. Instead almost every user comes to it thinking that it's going to give them "Windows" and instead they find "windows."

    RT doesn't have an audience and I think Microsoft knows that now. If Microsoft does indeed release Microsoft Office for iPad , it's all over with for RT. Who would buy a Surface RT when they can have Office on an iPad instead?

    Windows' future, for better or worse, remains on Intel platforms, not ARM.

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    At last count, there were roughly 60,000 apps in the Windows Store.

    Will developers ever step up and turn Windows 8 apps into a platform that’s as important as iOS and Android?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    There’s a good question

    The selection of Windows 8 apps is relatively weak today, and any sane developer chooses iOS and Android first, with Windows 8 nowhere near the “must have” category yet.

    But even the most pessimistic projections show hundreds of millions of new devices powered by Windows 8 shipping each year. At some point, maybe in 2014 or 2015, the ecosystem will be big enough that it can’t be ignored any more. Ultimately, I think we’ll see the market settle on three ecosystems: iOS/OS X, Android, and Windows. And it won’t make economic sense to ignore any of them.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    Developers go where the money is...

    ... there's little money in Windows 8 and Metro specific apps so they're not going there. It's that simple. So long as most relatively modern legacy apps will run on Windows 8 desktop, programmers won't be investing in moving to Metro. It just isn't worth their time and energy.

    The same is true for Windows Phone 8. Alexandra Chang, over at Wired recently observed "Windows Phone Store … looks more and more like a poorly stocked used bookstore." Exactly.

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Microsoft says it’s turning into a devices and services company.

    Does Windows have a future as a subscription service?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    I think so.

    Windows typically follows the lead of Office, which has been tinkering with subscription models for a long time and finally went all in with Office 365 this year.

    I’m sure my opponent is horrified by the option of paying anything for software and services, but I’d rather pay for a product than be at the mercy of ad-supported “free” services that can be abandoned or changed at the drop of a hat.

    The most likely scenario is a variation on what already works in the mobile device world: low-cost hardware subsidized by service contracts. For Windows devices, that sort of offering would include not just the device but also cloud storage, music and video, games, email, and productivity software.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    That's the plan.

    I'm not sure they can pull off the devices move but I have no trouble seeing Office, Outlook/Exchange, and Azure as subscription services. Microsoft is well on its way to becoming a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company.

    Windows itself though... I don't see it. I'm sure they'd love to turn it into an annual subscription service, but I don't see companies going along with this move anymore than they would with annual operating system upgrades.

    There are versions of this model that can work. For example, by making the browser the master interface for all applications, both local and SaaS, Google is clearly finding customers for Chrome OS. But, Microsoft is locked into a fat-client desktop system and I just can't see that fitting well into an annual subscription model.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, last question: When can we definitely call the game on Windows 8 success or failure?


    Posted by Larry Dignan

    That question presupposes that there’s a fixed, static thing called Windows 8.

    The reality, as I mentioned in my opening arguments, is that this is an evolving organism in a rapidly changing ecosystem. This is going to play out over at least five years, maybe as long as a decade.

    Anyone who wants to declare winners and losers today or next year is making a huge strategic blunder.

    Ed Bott

    I am for Yes, it can be saved

    He's dead Jim, uh Ed.

    Windows isn't. Legacy Windows desktops will be with us for ages. Windows 8, like Vista before it, is a dead operating system walking. Blue, if it goes the way it seems to be, will not give it a second chance at life.

    When Vista failed, Microsoft brought XP sales back from death. Windows 7 hasn't been put out to pasture yet, but it is hard to find Windows 7 PCs . I expect that come the holiday season of 2013 you'll see Windows 7 Home Premium
    systems once more on sale, and outselling the Blue PCs and notebooks sitting beside them.

    If they're not, Windows and PC sales will decline even more steeply. In either case, Microsoft's apathetic board is going to need to re-think just how long they want to stick by Ballmer.

     

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for No, it can't be saved

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks debaters -- and readers

    Look for Ed and Steven's closing arguments tomorrow -- and for my final verdict on Thursday. And please cast your own vote if you haven't already done so.

    Posted by Larry Dignan

Closing Statements

'I’m not dead yet!'

Ed Bott

My worthy opponent has only two arguments, which he repeats in every answer.

First, Windows 8 PCs aren’t selling. Second, the “Metro UI” is awful.

The current slump in PC sales is not a verdict on Windows. It’s the economy, Steven. In Q4, Apple said Mac sales declined roughly 22 percent. Is the MacBook Air dead? Hardly.

My opponent cites Gartner’s projections but ignores their more recent numbers: 1.7 billion Windows devices of all types will be sold in the next five years, including 250 million Ultramobiles - the kind of hybrid device that Windows 8 was designed for. Not dead yet.

Critics of the Windows 8 UI are loud, but there’s strong evidence that people really like it. If the missing Start menu bothers you, try Start8, which my opponent admits has been downloaded 3 million times. Fixed.

Six years ago, my opponent called Windows Vista “the walking dead.” Sound familiar? But the Aero interface he loves so much debuted in Vista and matured in Windows 7.

Windows 8 is solid at its core, and Microsoft today is far more disciplined than in the Vista era. With some usability tweaks and some hot hardware, it will survive to torment Mr. Vaughan-Nichols for years.

Causes of Windows 8 Death

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

The subject, Windows 8, is a not quite seven month-old operating system. According to witnesses , it was born with a congenital defect called "Metro." This fatal flaw, combined with other factors, such as partner poisoning, led to its premature death.

I said at the start that this wasn't a debate, it was an autopsy and I've seen no reason to shift my position. My worthy opponent has been trying to recast Windows 8 from being a stand-alone product to be taken on its own merits to being only part of an evolutionary chain leading to the sure-to-be-much-better Windows 8.1, aka Blue. Balderdash!

I've been hammering on Windows 8's market numbers, which are far worse than Vista's pathetic  numbers, because while most issues in operating system discussions can be a matter of opinion the simple sad truth is that Windows 8 has failed to find an audience. With all the advantages of essentially owning the desktop market, with having years to roll Windows 8 out, Microsoft was still unable to talk users into using it.

I'm reminded of the baseball New York Yankees or football's Manchester United in their worst years when they'd spend more than anyone else in their sports, and still fail miserably. You can talk all you want about how the next season, or the next version, will be better. That's fine. But, just by doing that alone, you admit that today's team, today's product has failed.

Maybe Blue, this next evolutionary step, will be better. We don't know. But Windows 8.0? It can't be saved because it's already dead and there's no emergency room that can shock it back to life. 

Bloodsport and a good show

Larry Dignan

This debate was arguably our most entertaining one yet. It captured the bloodsport that is the Windows 8 debate.

Ed Bott had a strong argument with many nuances to note. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols had two tricks---the UI stinks, and tablets and smartphones trump PCs---and they were damn good tricks.

Personally, I think Microsoft is going to need Windows 9 to put Windows 8 behind it. But I had to put aside the crowd's comments, the vote and my personal bias to judge the arguments on the page. On that front, I have to give the argument to Ed, but found Steven's Metro happy rebuttal blistering and comical at times.

Overall, hats off to both for a good show. Ed gets the win. 

Topics: Great Debate

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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