Windows 8's problem: It's the hardware

Summary:Microsoft's Windows 8 roll-out is taking a few hits from analysts and the press, but the larger worry is a hardware line-up that feels very 1.0.

Microsoft's Windows 8 sales appear to be slow out of the gate and what's really going on will surface on a bevy of tech earnings conference calls this month. Anecdotally, Windows 8 devices aren't screaming home run and my working theory remains that the biggest problem is hardware related.

surface

After a few weeks of going to Best Buy, Staples and other retailers pushing Windows 8 it's hard to find real enthusiasm about the operating system. There's interest for sure. There are a lot of hardware choices too. But Windows 8 and the barrage of hardware feels very 1.0.

And that's a big problem when Windows 8 devices are often positioned near Apple products.

CNET's Shara's Tibken highlights the tug-of-war between Microsoft and its hardware partners over Windows RT and tablets. Hardware partners are miffed. Microsoft is a bit of a control freak. As a result, you have a hodge podge of hardware that doesn't quite scream "gotta have it." The short version of Tibken's story is this:

  • Microsoft freaked out hardware partners. 
  • Windows RT could be a stray judging from the dearth of support at CES. 
  • Microsoft is a hardware control freak. 
  • But it's unclear that anyone outside of Microsoft's Xbox unit knows jack about hardware.

In other words, Microsoft's Windows 8 screams 1.0.

Now I'm not going to hop on the Windows 8 is a failure bandwagon. Instead, I think Windows 8 is a second half 2013 story. That timeline isn't going to appeal to many tech writers given our short attention spans. But it's strange that Windows 8 is all about hardware and software integration yet both sides of the equation feel off to me.

More:  Why you should be skeptical of Chitika's market-share reports  |  Price and 'lukewarm critical reviews' put a damper on Microsoft Surface  |  Everything you need to know about Windows 8 upgrades (FAQ part 2)  |  What's behind the slump in PC sales? Can the industry turn around?  |  Can Best Buy's PC business survive?

Eight months from now I expect the following:

  1. Microsoft will roll out an update that will smooth out Windows 8. 
  2. Some hardware vendor will come up with a winning Windows 8 design. 
  3. Consumers will react positively to this device. 
  4. Microsoft will get enough app momentum.

Forrester Research also is expecting Windows 8 to pick up into 2014. In a report, Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels noted that:

  • PC demand excluding tablets will remain weak.
  • Apple will sell $7 billion worth of Macs and $11 billion in iPads to the corporate market in 2013.
  • Corporate spending on Windows 8 will remain flat in 2013. 
  • In 2014, increased PC demand and improved Windows 8 devices will deliver 8 percent growth, but that'll trail double-digit growth for Linux, Android, and Apple products.

Today, Microsoft is in a hardware pickle largely as expected . The Surface is promising, but 2.0 will be much better. Think Surface Pro with better battery life. The only Windows 8 hardware that seems to have a following is a touch screen laptop.

Jeff Nolan chronicled his Windows 8 experience and it's worth noting. First, Nolan is a real person---not a tech reviewer---and he also came from a Macbook. Nolan's experience prompted a long discussion about Windows 8 on the Enterprise Irregulars list.

The catch is Nolan liked Windows 8 and appears to recommend it, but has a few hardware issues. If you zoom out you realize that Microsoft and its ecosystem of partners all have the same hardware problems.

Topics: Windows 8, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Microsoft, PCs, Tablets, Windows

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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