Five ways Windows 8 could fail

Five ways Windows 8 could fail

Summary: Here are five concerns that I still have related to Microsoft's next version of Windows.


The more I see of the Windows 8 platform, the more i like it. The other day I got the opportunity to see a build that is very close to the Consumer Preview expected at the end of the month and I was impressed with the changes that have been made since the release of the Developer Preview back in September last year.

But no matter how well refined and well rounded the operating system is, it could still become another Vista around Microsoft's neck.

Here are five concerns that I still have related to Microsoft's next version of Windows:

1. Touch could still turn out to be a fad

Microsoft has put a lot of time, effort and money into making Windows 8 a touch-based operating system. Sure, you can still drive it with a keyboard and mouse -- thankfully -- but key areas such as the Start Screen and built-in applications have been heavily remodelled, so that they'll work with both pudgy fingers and a precise cursor.

It seems to me that Microsoft is betting that touch (and tablets) will be a big thing during the reign of Windows 8, but that the company is making his assumption based on one device -- the iPad. That worries me. Tablets have been around in one shape or form for over a decade, but each new model withered and died on the vine.

The fact that there's a market for the iPad doesn't mean that there's a broader market for tablets in general. Take the enormous success of the iPod. There was many a company that saw the success of the iPod and thought that would translate into a broader market for MP3 players in general. It wasn't the case, and companies lost a lot of money pursuing a dead market.

And that's just one cautionary tale.

Tablets aside for one moment, it's hard to see PC OEMs seriously embracing touch on desktops and notebooks because of cost. At best it's going to create a divide between cheaper keyboard/mouse systems and pricier touch-enabled systems, but the problem there is that OEMs are having a difficult time shifting high-end systems.

Microsoft has yet to answer what is to me the million-dollar question: What advantages does Windows 8 offer over Windows 7 on non-touch enabled systems?

2. ARM confusion

Microsoft has finally clarified some nagging questions I had about the Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) platform. Specifically, Microsoft has said "WOA PCs will be clearly labelled and branded so as to avoid customer confusion with Windows 8 on x86/64." While that's good news, I still wonder whether the presence of two such different versions of Windows on devices won't cause problems.

With Windows 7 we finally (at least pretty much) managed to draw a line under the whole "Windows 32-bit vs. Windows 64-bit" debate that had been confusing consumers since Windows XP. The problem with the x86 vs. ARM debate is that there's going to be a unification down the line and the two platforms will always have a gulf between them.

How exactly are consumers going to react to two different sets of marketing messages? I still don't think that most consumers have a clear idea of the differences between the various flavors of Windows (and that's a pretty simple thing really). I'm not sure whether folks who aren't sure as to whether they was Windows Home Premium or Ultimate are well equipped to deal with x86 vs. ARM.

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3. A crashing PC market

In case you hadn't noticed, the PC market isn't a buoyant as it once was. The PC is under pressure from post-PC devices such as smartphones and tablets. While the PC isn't going to vanish any time soon, it is losing ground. And if PC sales lose traction, sales of Windows licenses are also going to lose traction.

I think that the biggest problem with PCs right now is that no one sees them as sexy. Even new classes of PC like the ultrabooks are essentially PCs, and consumers are smart enough to see that (but they're still not smart enough to know the difference between different flavors of Windows ... go figure). There are a lot more new, shiny, sexy stuff that's drawing the eye on consumers. Unfortunately for Microsoft, a lot of it is powered by Android or iOS software.

Can Windows 8 make PCs sexy again? To be honest, I don't think so. The OEMs might be able to do that, but they're already operating on razor thin margins and the last thing they want to do is start taking risks.

4. App ecosystem could be a flop

A platform needs a thriving app ecosystem if it is to grow and succeed. iOS has one, and Android has one. Platforms that don't have a supporting ecosystem don't fare so well. Look at what happened to the likes of HP's TouchPad.

Microsoft is putting a lot of emphasis on Windows 8's ability to run apps, which will be available from the Windows Store. Remember, ARM apps have to all come from the Windows Store. No installing stuff from disc or downloads. This means that this store as to work.

...and that's something Microsoft hasn't had all that much success with in the past. Case in point: Windows Marketplace. This was part of Windows Vista, but chances are that you never knew about it. Not only was it buried in the OS, it didn't really offer anything all that compelling. Unless Microsoft can make its app store as easy to use as Apple's App Store (in other words, one-click, simple stuff), it could be dead again.

But there more to a successful app ecosystem than an easy-to-use app store. You need apps, and as Microsoft has found with its Windows Phone platform, it's tough to convince developers to jump on board a new platform (especially when that platform might crumble under them).

5. Enterprise reaction

I already know what many enterprise customers think about Windows 8. They look at that that new user interface, and all that touch stuff and see having to throw a lot of dollars at training employees to make sense of it all. And this at a time when dollars are tight.

Another problem that those I've talked to in enterprise have with Windows 8 is that they can't see a compelling for touch to be in the OS as they can't see a need for it outside of specific (and quite limited) scenarios.

Enterprise customers aren't going to be replacing traditional keyboard and mouse systems with touch systems in a hurry given the cost of doing so, and that might mean they stick with Windows 7 and see what happens with Windows 9.

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Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • Why would they need to retrain employees?

    if a "claasic" UI is still included?
    William Farrel
    • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

      @William Farrel
      he classic UI thats been currently shown in the developers copy really has no relation to what the classic ui has been. The loss of a full desktop that doesnt just take you back to the metro ui doesnt count. The removal of the start button means that your once central area to find what you need is gone so you have to retrain. The extensive use of the ribbon is a ball buster also which will need to retrain people on. If people have used an os with a handful of non changebale features for almost 20 years then you take that all away and say here now this is what we are making you use it just doesn't go well. Now figure in retraining the IT department to deal with completely new issues they have yetr to see and your talking massive costs for any company which just doesn't make it worth it.
    • Because it's different

      @William Farrel seriously believes Win8 can be rolled out in the enterprise without training? Another post to tag;-)

      Adrian's points are spot on; touch on the desktop is a non-starter, winPC market in decline, 32/64-bit was a joke (even in Win7) but about to be topped with ARM ( really windows branding exercise - aka dot), MS marketplace failures (Microsoft Points, seriously) and enterprises looking for productivity savings (Win8 promising the opposite).

      Advice to MS: Get ride of your clown CEO, slash R&D expenditures, ride the monopoly cash cows, return money to shareholders and disappear into irrelevance.
      Richard Flude
      • None of what you say matters a bit.

        @Richard Flude

        "touch on the desktop is a non-starter"
        So says you. If it is or it isn't it dosnt matter a bit. Windows 8 isn't going to cost more just because its optimized to work with touch, and the none touch functionality is every bit as good or better then Windows 7 it will be a no complaints issue either way. And one more thing for the road on this one. For several years now there have been too many complaints about MS being caught flat footed on new advances. How flat footed would MS be if touch did catch on in about a year or two and MS had nothing ready. Its people like you who cause people to go nuts; wrong if you do it, wrong if you don't do it. Well, MS is doing it and in such a way it will work just great in either event. Its win win for MS and loose loose for the nay sayers.

        "winPC market in decline, 32/64-bit was a joke (even in Win7) but about to be topped with ARM"

        Well well. This comment is just plain uninformed and downright nutty. All I'm going to say is that for the uninformed; the demise of the Windows desktop/laptop PC environment is grossly exaggerated for one massive reason thats as plain as day once one considers the Windows XP effect and what it really means. People have held on to Windows XP for so incredibly long for TWO, count 'em, TWO reasons. One, Since XPSP2 Windows operating systems have been so good there has not been a compelling reason to upgrade particularly if your hardware is still running well. Reason #2, for several years now peoples hardware has become so good even on the moderate budget level their hardware is still running well. So few people need to upgrade due to lagging hardware or sorely outdated operating systems. That is THE primary reason why the PC market is in a slumpish mode, not at all because PC's are being replaced in ANY meaningful way by smartphone.

        Desktops being replaced by God. A concept still so currently laughable I cannot believe anyone has the stones to even say it, but alas the narrow and simple minded do. Sure people do a lot of odds and sods computing by phone, I do, and plenty of it trust me, but only about 5% of it has any possibility of replacing what still needs to be done on a PC. Its so obvious it bothers me a lot that I just took the time to type it.

        "MS marketplace failures".
        Well, this one is like so much dust in the wind. Reality proves it to be thus. Whatever failures there have been in the MS Marketplace have had pretty much zero impact on Windows and any continued failure will have just about exactly the precise same impact on Windows. Apple needs iTunes desperately to make the iPad and iPhone and even iPod to work in the market place. Windows as it turns out has never needed that kind of thing and really never will. All that is just MS seeing if they can build up another cash cow, whether they can or cannot will not create any failure for Windows whatsoever. AT ALL. It never has and no rational reason why it ever would at this point.

        " return money to shareholders and disappear into irrelevance." least you make it clear the kind of clear cut bias you have that lead you to say such irrational things.

        Hope your still around these boards in a couple years, I'm going to just love linking this ridiculous post of yours back to you and watch you squirm as you try and explain why you appear to be so horribly wrong but are somehow still right, because thats what guys like you do. All the time.
      • Not all MS marketplaces suck, see XBLA

        @Richard Flude Though I believe you have some valid points, I have an issue with one piece of your comment. You state "MS marketplace failures (Microsoft Points, seriously)", but while the Marketplace for Vista failed and the one on WP7 isn't huge, you must take into account the huge success that is XBLA. The Live Arcade marketplace on Xbox (owned by MS) is HUGE. I'm not saying this guarantees the success of the Windows marketplace, but it certainly hints at the possibilities. It all comes down to us devs, I guess.
  • Typo

    I???ve talked to in enterprise have with Windows 8 is that they can???t see a compelling for touch to be in the OS
    • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

      This is good news to hear.
    • Touch is only of value if you are going to put Windows on a tablet.

      @Ammalgam ... Microsoft understands that they cannot compete with the iPad unless they can offer a touch UI on Windows, ported to a tablet. Besides, Windows on ARM will scare the daylights out of Intel.
      M Wagner
  • Pudgy fingers and precision pointing device are completely different

    interface mechanisms. Meaning you can't design one without sacrificing utility in the other. This is why Launchpad in Lion generally winds up stuck in a dusty corner. Basically, what we are seeing in Windows 8 is Microsoft copying Apple again. Only this time, they are copying Apple stupidity.
  • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

    Microsoft's biggest problem is that today, writers like you and sites like this have a very big influence on a vocal minority of users. So while you folks continue to seed the doubt about if Windows 8 will work with keyboard and mice, users like me will actually install the OS on a desktop in a corporate setting and actually test it out. But I don't have the reach of a CNET, I'm not a tech blogger, I'm just a tech user who finds that Window8 works much like Windows 7 does with current software, new software will be Metro, but guess what, for some reason keyboard and mouse also works with those.

    Before we start listing all the reasons why something will fail, how about we wait to see at least what Microsoft has to offer in the consumer preview. I will point out that I'm curious about how they're going to market the ARM version of Windows, that to me is your only valid point.

    BTW, as a indie developer I'm almost half wishing that the bigger developers are slow on the Win8 uptake. There will be 100's of millions of users using Win8 after it's released, I want all of them for myself!
    • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

      @rwalrond I just couldn't agree more.
    • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

      @rwalrond I'd be more excited to hear the ways Windows 8 will enhance our operating systems, instead of always hearing blog after blog on Metro and whether or not they like it. Metro is a big deal because it's new and has some potential, but it is only a small part of it, and an optional one at that. It's akin to basing an entire OS on where they stuck the time on the taskbar. Enough already, that chiz doesn't matter.<br><br>I think the term you were looking for was FUD. <br>They are all trolling using FUD.<br><br>If we are only talking about Windows 8 tablets, then start titling blogs as such. I'm excited about them too, but I care a lot less about the tablet architecture than I do the Netbook/Desktop one.
    • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

      But see your just one opinion. As techie myself who has installed windows 8 since its release to devlopers I find it hugely different then windows 7 or any other windows of the past. I see the huge headaches this os will casue and the loss of simplicity which is why windows has had such a success. Now remove 2 of the most basic must have options in their entirty such as a full fledge classic desktop with start button and you have just alienated 85% of your loyal customer base. Human as a whole tend to not like change once they have a set form of doing so. For almost 20 years people have trained and done work with windows os with a few things that have been constant and they have grown comfortable and efficient in how to do so. Now take that away and say here this is all new and you no longer do things as you have and to make it harder we removed what has always been there good luck...just very very bad. I mean anyone who has an tech clue can see the failure about to come with this. A quick look at what a fail the windows phone has become since the intro of metro ui and remval of the known desktop of windows 6 and earlier clearly shows the demand or want from customers for this poorly designed os just is non existant. Unless Microsoft offers an install disc that asks if you want a traditional windows os install meaning x86 based full classic desktop with start button and no metro touchcentric features or the option to go with the new metro look versions for pc or arm thenit is a fail. The bet is not on touch or tablets but on work pcs with millions who use them and are acustom to how they work.The biggest mstake is trying to force a one os for all microsoft device as there are way to many devices that need completely different setups. Laptops and pcs use one, Netbooks another, phones another, and then add tablets. They must all play nice but the os structures have to fit te device job and windows 8 fails handily at this.
      • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

        @Fletchguy I've been in the industry long enough to remember when using a keyboard and DOS based application was what we defined as normal and how this Mouse and GUI was going to alienate customers. Multi-tasking was a buzz word for make your computer crash. You see things can change, things are changing. You mentioned WP7 but what you failed to mention is that WM 6 was already free falling and the reason? Apple changed up the game, not because Microsoft released WP7. <br><br>The classic desktop is not going away, just the way we use the start menu.<br>Will Microsoft succeed? I think they will, but we'll all have to wait and see. One thing for sure, it would be a mistake for Microsoft to sit back and wait for Google, Apple or some other company to lead computing into the next era. A change was needed and this will be just as big as Win16 to Win32 but not nearly as big as DOS to Windows. <br><br>You see, I fully expect my computing future will be to carry around 1 device not 3 or 2, but one device that can wirelessly connect to shells (desktop, laptop, tablet) and give me my information when I want it. Where not going to get that future if we stay stuck in the present or the past or don't take chances. I applaud Microsoft for taking a chance.
      • So wrong.

        @Fletchguy <br><br>All I'm going to say is two things, first, so wrong.<br><br>Second, seriously, don't tell me that even in your heart of hearts (as is often said) you really believe what you just said. Either that or you love to comment on things you know nothing about. Every single report I have read by any credible reviewer has said it appears Windows 8 will work just A1 with a mouse and keyboard. <br><br>Make some attempt to be accurate and real.
      • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

        @Fletchguy Your 100% correct, I'll be sticking with Win7 in may gaming rig for a while.
    • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

      Why hasn't Microsoft demonstrated how "good and great" Windows-8 will be on laptops/desktops using traditional keyboard/mouse input? That would do a lot to minimize FUD, and, possibly, encourage business users that Windows-8 does offer their laptop/desktop users major productivity gains.
      • They will ... beginning VERY SOON.

        M Wagner
      • RE: Five ways Windows 8 could fail

        @TsarNikky I agree, Microsoft should have demonstrated it more. I would assume they didn't because the first public release was really for developers to get apps ready so that when the consumer version was ready, consumers would experience it themselves.<br><br>In reality Microsoft did demonstrate and talk about the fact that it will work just as well with keyboard and mouse as it does with touch, but that doesn't get you the same amount of page views as saying Windows 8 won't work with mouse and keyboard.
      • Ive read plenty that says they have.


        Plenty more around and the general consensus seems to be that with some minor practice, if you were a power user before with keyboard and mouse in no time you can be a Windows 8 power user with keyboard and mouse.

        I have to believe that realistic thinking people would have to believe that MS would know far far better then to allow anything less then that to be the case.