Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

Summary: IDC's top 10 system software predictions for 2012 are out. One of them casts doubt on Microsoft's potential market for Windows 8 among traditional PC users.

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It's that time of year: The time when prognosticators get out their crystal balls and make predictions.

The researchers at IDC have just released to their clients their "Worldwide System Infrastructure Software 2012 Top 10 Predictions." (Al Gillen Program VP, System Software, tweeted the list of ten on December 2.)

One of those predictions caught my eye: "Windows 8 Will Launch with Split Success."

IDC analysts didn't mince words about Windows client. "Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor," according to IDC's prediction document. (IDC is predicting Windows 8 will be released to manufacturing in time for new Windows 8 PCs to emerge by August 2012, at the latest. And they are very bullish about Windows Server 8's prospects, for what it's worth.)

IDC's skepticism on uptake isn't out of left field. Other company watchers (including yours truly) have wondered about the applicability of the Metro tiled interface on anything other than a tablet. Microsoft officials have hinted there may be some changes on the Windows 8 usability front for those wielding keyboards and mice by the time the Windows 8 beta hits in early 2012. But the developer preview that Microsoft released in September has led to lots of user uncertainty regarding Microsoft's promise that Metro will be just as navigable with a mouse/keyboard as with fingers/stylus.

Giving further weight to IDC's Windows 8 prediction is the fact that many enterprise users have either recently completed their Windows 7 migrations or are in the throes of them and aren't going to be all that excited about undertaking another migration so soon. One large business user I know told me that his company tends to skip every other Windows release and that he was expecting Windows 8 to be largely skippable.

IDC also is predicting Microsoft's success on the Windows 8 tablet front, at least in 2012, will be "disappointing," its prediction document stated. Microsoft has some hefty challenges to overcome in that space, the researchers said.

More from IDC's prediction document (which will be the subject of an IDC Webcast on December 15):

"(T)here will be intense scrutiny on Microsoft's ability to deliver a successful tablet experience aboard both x86-based tablets and on devices running ARM processors. This is a tall order for Microsoft, and while the x86 tablet strategy makes sense as a transitional solution for today's PC users, it will be the ARM-based devices that need to shine and clear a high bar already set by Apple."

This point is echoed by a new Peter Bright post on Ars Technica about last week's rumor that Microsoft might be dropping Desktop App (aka non-Metro app support) on Windows 8 on ARM.

Bright's piece, entitled "Why Microsoft should, and shouldn't, support legacy Windows desktop on ARM," makes the point that with Windows 8, Microsoft is attempting to address the competing wants/needs of both consumers and business users.

"It makes sense to produce at least one Windows SKU that has no legacy desktop, but equally, it makes sense to produce at least one SKU that runs on ARM and does include the legacy desktop," Bright argued.

My Twitter chums and readers seemed last week to be pretty equally split on whether it would be a good idea for Microsoft to drop Desktop App support in Windows 8 on ARM. Microsoft's ultimate decision on that front would have some impact on traditional PC users, but not enough to spur -- or deter -- them from upgrading, in my view. Do you agree?

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, ARM, PCs

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

    To paraphrase your title, I suspect Microsoft itself is inexorably becoming largely irrelevant...period. The map for the future of the Windows OS platform is aimless, blurry, and without vision. Sure, MS isn't going to vanish anytime soon, but the last time they had crowds in line for their 'next big thing' was W98.
    dheady
    • Unless you count Xbox or Kinect

      @dheady@...

      But hey, let's ignore facts for the sake of irrelevant statements.

      I predict the majority of comments, including the one you're reading now, will be completely irrelevant.
      LiquidLearner
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @LiquidLearner Agreed! I think they WILL make changes to the interface, as everyone is asking. By stirring up this kind of passion from their userbase on this issue, they have all the telemetry they need to make all kinds of decisions ;)
        Imrhien
    • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

      @dheady@... [i]Sure, MS isn't going to vanish anytime soon, but the last time they had crowds in line for their 'next big thing' was W98.[/i]

      I'm not sure how that is relevant anymore. Seems to me that "waiting in line" for Software would be a rather stupid thing to do these days. But you go ahead.
      Badgered
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @Badgered

        Perhaps he is confusing the people who wait in line for a phone as being the pinnacle of being cool...
        Bozzer
      • What! Are you saying all those fanbois waiting at the Apple Store are...

        @Badgered Wasting their time? But these gifts are from the Great Apple. How could you question their wisdom? Let's all wait for the next cargo, ahem, I mean iPhone and chant, I mean tweet, to the almighty Apple.
        happyharry_z
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @Badgered Thousands did wait in line for Win98. No one "waits in line" for software today. I was making a point using a metaphor that included an outdated reference. Apparently, I was too subtle for you. Literalist.
        dheady
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @Badgered [i]How could you question their wisdom?[/i]

        I know.. I know.. What was I thinking? I'll get back in line like a good boy.
        Badgered
      • dheady: then you failed twice

        Your metaphor was both a figurative and a literal failure. Your quote was:
        "the last time they had crowds in line for their 'next big thing' was W98"

        There were crowds in line for their next big thing when their next big thing was Kinect:
        http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/03/get-your-kinect-launch-coverage-at-joystiq/

        Then you backtracked and claimed that you only meant that no one lines up for software. Oops:
        http://algonquin.patch.com/articles/gamers-line-up-for-midnight-release-of-latest-call-of-duty-game
        And guess what the most popular platform is? Xbox. Microsoft's Xbox.

        Now, if you really do want to restrict yourself to OSs only, Windows 7 has been selling at a rate of 20 million per month since launch. Every month. I'll let that number sink in. Apple, on the other hand, has only managed to sell 2 million copies of Lion per month and Lion costs a tenth of the price (as we are constantly reminded). I'll let that sink in.

        So while you are right that no one lines up for OSs any more, if they had to, it is clear that the lines would be much bigger for Windows 7 than for any other OS out there today.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @Badgered [i]Thousands did wait in line for Win98. No one "waits in line" for software today. I was making a point using a metaphor that included an outdated reference. Apparently, I was too subtle for you. Literalist.[/i]

        Fine... help me out here. Your point was no one wants MS stuff anymore (i.e. the reference to "waiting in line")? Yet as we both know, MS sells millions upon millions of copies of OSes and other assorted software. So what exactly was your point?

        I'd say that no, no one is literally waiting in line, but they certainly aren't as hard up for sales as you try to imply.
        Badgered
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        Depends on what you mean by "traditional PC users." If you mean users of current desktop systems, then yes, Windows 8 won't be important (except on new machines). But if you mean users of new laptop systems, particularly ultrabook-like devices which a year from now will be standard-issue corporate devices, then Windows 8 will be extremely relevant. As new Metro productivity apps are developed that take advantage of the touch interface and trackpad, laptops will take on a new life and level of excitement that's been missing for several years. While ultrabooks will succeed, I'm not so optimistic about "pure" Windows 8 tablets. With Apple and Android so entrenched, that's where Microsoft is likely to be disappointed.
        pjpinella
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        [i]I'm not sure how that is relevant anymore. Seems to me that "waiting in line" for Software would be a rather stupid thing to do these days. But you go ahead.[/i]

        That's only because Apple generates that kind of enthusiasm. Had MS did it, you'd be flag-waving with them like everybody else.
        ScorpioBlue
      • Not quite the whole story

        [i]There were crowds in line for their next big thing when their next big thing was Kinect:[/i]

        Hmmm...let's see that was a 12 year gap. There was initial enthusiasm for the Kinect a year ago and then it went quiet. Not much else has been said.

        [i]Then you backtracked and claimed that you only meant that no one lines up for software. Oops:[/i]

        One game is not a trend. And again, that was over a year ago.

        [i]Now, if you really do want to restrict yourself to OSs only, Windows 7 has been selling at a rate of 20 million per month since launch. Every month. I'll let that number sink in.[/i]

        Due to the sheer monopolistic ubiquity of Windows on the desktop, that's not surprising. But don't forget how they got there.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_vs._Microsoft

        See? I won't let you.

        [i]Apple, on the other hand, has only managed to sell 2 million copies of Lion per month and Lion costs a tenth of the price (as we are constantly reminded). I'll let that sink in.[/i]

        And let's see...you were one of the "suckers" that bought it, right?

        lol... :D

        [i]So while you are right that no one lines up for OSs any more, if they had to, it is clear that the lines would be much bigger for Windows 7 than for any other OS out there today.[/i]

        Which should have happened back in 2007 when Vista came out. The only lines I remember then were some people returning their Vista machines wanting their money back.

        Keep on shilling!

        more lol... :D
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @ScorpioBlue [i]Had MS did it, you'd be flag-waving with them like everybody else.[/i]

        For Software? um.. no, try again. And I'd personally not do it for hardware, though I can understand "a little" why someone would do it for hardware. I'm not the type of person who has to have the neatest new toy the day it arrives.
        Badgered
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        [i]For Software? um.. no, try again. And I'd personally not do it for hardware, though I can understand "a little" why someone would do it for hardware. I'm not the type of person who has to have the neatest new toy the day it arrives.[/i]

        I don't either, but you don't see me ridiculing those that do.

        And since there's not much enthusiasm for Windows 8 (beyond the testers, shill acolytes and press hype) knowing full well it will be defaulted on every PC shipped after it's release date, it's understandable why you wouldn't.
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @ScorpioBlue

        You know, if the testers of the developer preview and later versions say Windows 8 is awesome, then isn't that a general indication that it is awesome, as opposed to people who've never used it, just looked at the interface and said "it seems dumb, so I'm just going to assume it is"?
        spacespeed
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        [i]You know, if the testers of the developer preview and later versions say Windows 8 is awesome, then isn't that a general indication that it is awesome, as opposed to people who've never used it, just looked at the interface and said "it seems dumb, so I'm just going to assume it is"?[/i]

        Do you always believe hype? Do you always believe everything they tell you? Do you expect me to believe everything you tell me?

        I've gotten pretty jaded over the last few years with hype and advertizing that I don't take it too seriously anymore. I suggest you do the same.
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @ScorpioBlue

        We get it that you have a bias against MS. Fine, but biases do not make fact. The Hipsters love Apple, but for some power users and people who do basic things, Windows is great.

        Don't get me wrong, I've explored Linux and some of the different distros they offer and I've become a fan and I'm running it on one of my PC's. I've even enjoyed SJVN's articles on the different distros.

        The Fact is that Windows isn't a perfect product but it's a damn good one. I've used every iteration and with the exception of WinME, every other distro has done what I've needed or wanted in an single OS. I've even used Vista and it's overall ran fine for me. I can say that the last few iterations of Windows have been overall enjoyable to me. I feel confident that the vast majority of users can say the same. This repy isn't even direct towards you in the end. More like a counter to the, in my opinion, misinformation that some people on ZDnet spread.
        Those who hunt Trolls
    • Why can't "Windows" be GUI agnostic?

      @dheady@...
      ...(like Linux)?
      kd5auq
      • RE: Windows 8 will be 'largely irrelevant' to traditional PC users: IDC

        @kd5auq
        Because they don't want to require people to use the command line.
        brendan9