Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

Summary: Windows 8 represents the biggest change between versions of the operating system on most consumer PCs, and for better or worse it is going to be very important for that industry.

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The consumer PC industry is in the doldrums, with sales down at bothersome levels and a near-tangible lack of enthusiasm in the air. The Ultrabook is launching in full force, and while that is intended to reignite consumer passion it alone is not going to do the trick. Windows 8 will launch in the consumer market with great fanfare this year, and how the average PC buyer will react to an OS that is such a radical departure from past versions of Windows is a big question mark.

Adopting the Metro interface in Windows 8 is a major effort by Microsoft to make the PC OS appeal to the average consumer, but it's not a given what that reaction will be. Fact is, some consumers have an aversion to new things that are radically different from what they are used to, and that may be especially the case with PCs that many already find intimidating.

One risk Microsoft has taken with the move to such a radically different interface in Metro is the message it sends about current versions of Windows. In a way, it is an admission to consumers that Windows 7 and older versions are too outdated, and not good enough for today's PC user. This may bite them if the reaction to Metro in the mainstream market is not positive at launch.

PC makers depend on new versions of Windows to jumpstart sales, as most consumers upgrade the OS by buying new systems. Systems with Windows 7 will still be available for a while, but Windows 8 is going to be needed to really get systems flying off the shelves. Windows 8 is so different, if buyers are reluctant to make such a big change then system manufacturers are going to be in a real pickle. They won't sell new systems with Windows 8 due to the radical changes, and they might not be able to continue selling PCs with the older Windows if it's viewed as too outdated.

Microsoft has a lot riding on the market acceptance of Windows 8, but it's not alone. PC makers have even more to lose if the market has a knee-jerk reaction to the Metro style.

The marketing message from Microsoft better be well-thought out for Windows 8. Consumers need to believe it is so much easier, so much better that they have to have it. This is critical to market acceptance for something so different. If this is left up to the OEMs, the message will end up being confusing at best and negative at worst. It is the most important marketing campaign Microsoft has ever undertaken, and it better already be under careful construction.

If Microsoft and OEMs begin the Windows 8 message to address how it not only covers "regular" PCs but fancy tablets and other forms, massive confusion will follow. Consumers don't want to run the same Windows on PCs and tablets, they are likely only in the market for one or the other at a given time. Multiple device support, Intel and ARM support, touch and non-touch support is not the message for consumers. Just show what the buyer can do with Windows 8, nothing else.

Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry, and a lot is riding on it. Microsoft better get it ready like no other Windows before, and sell it the right way. I am excited by Windows 8 and the Metro interface, but I'm not who they need to sell. It's all the people who haven't even seen Windows Phone yet that they need to convince how good Windows 8 will be, and that's most everyone.

Image credit: Flickr user Robert S. Donovan

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Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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  • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

    Sorry.
    Still not seeing why it is such a big "risk".
    It's new.
    It's different.
    I, for one, happen to think it has potential.
    If it does have issues, I still have the best OS out there to fall back on - Win7

    :|
    rhonin
    • Don't quite understand 'big risk'

      @rhonin

      Even I don't accept at face value why Windows 8 is a 'big risk'.
      James, can you clarify?
      Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • Hey, where did the UI go? I know I saw it somewhere...

      @rhonin | DTS<br><br>Risk for starters...<br><br>- the notion of change for the sake of change (image vs substance =|= attractiveness vs functionality)<br><br>- the notion that their flagship product is being modeled after a newfangled, Johnnie-come-lately smartphone<br><br>- the notion that Windows 8 might supersede Vista as Microsoft's latest bomb<br><br>- the notion of schizophrenia, after going from the egads-all-in-yer-face-at-once ribbon concept to metro minimalism ("hey, let's tap from Apple gadgetry + Google simplicity, why don't we? Au revoir to what's left of *yawn* Windows Explorer!")<br><br>'Risk' as such might be better modified as 'risk of embarrassment' or 'risk of failure' (per stagnant sales), or 'risk of overload' (per radical UI changes, or too quick of a product release cycle, especially after the durability of Win XP + success of Win7, an OS that is still miles from being fully adopted even 2.5 years from release).<br><br>Their best ace in the hole and sidestep out IMO -- a well advertised "your choice" campaign + giant "opt-out" switch for Metro UI non-believers (which I suspect will be many), coupled with a trumpeting of whatever new "winning" features they can put forth. That is, outside the new cutesy, touchy, smartphone interface. ;) <br><br>Remember UAC with its lovely Mother Hen annoyance factor, as introduced in round one of Vista? You saw what happened there when it came to market acceptance, and thus the softeners Redmond quickly deployed in W7. Market acceptance matters like few other things. And thus the risk of blowing that mark.<br><br>[And unlike our eternal optimist and Winguru EB, I personally believe extending new WinOS releases to a minimum of 4 years is more ideal + realistic]
      klumper
    • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

      @rhonin

      If you force someone to make choice, chances are they will not chose you.
      With the constant and apparent rise of Apple desktops and laptops, many users might just as well decide to change ships, and trust me -- will never look back to Microsoft.

      Anyway, that might be good outcome for everyone. Microsoft is a software company, that once started life writing application software for Apple computers. They may well decide to return back to their roots.
      danbi
  • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

    This is going to be the end for microsoft, believe me.
    People I know don't like change.

    Mobile phones, tablets, ... are all nice gadgets but they don't serve as "production-machines". For the
    Florejaen
    • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

      @Florejaen For the very reason of change avoidance M$ will succeed with Win8. The PC will still have the glom of logo stickers on it including Intel Inside (where would it be?) and the ubiquitous rainbow paned Windows. It is only after the sale that buyer's remorse might set in. On the other hand Windows has always had a huge, non-intuitive learning curve, so what is really changed?
      dheady@...
  • Inertia vs Hmmm, this is different

    Fun times upcoming. Get your lager and crisps and get ready to watch the mayhem.
    ego.sum.stig
  • MY OPINION: PC Industry will see an upswing this year despite/because of 8.

    I understand that the cycle of PC purchases has changed from what was a 3 year cycle to a 5-6 year cycle. Many people/businesses have older PCs reaching end of life. I assume the majority of these owners will begin to start purchasing new, replacement PCs this year, though it won't surprise me if businesses demand Win 7 be installed or if we see a shift of home users toward a first Apple computer.
    OrlandoHatch
    • Exactly.....

      @OrlandoHatch

      I have read in various places that businesses have already declared Win 8 as DOA. Many businesses are just now replacing failing WinXP systems with Win7 and they will not want to massively upgrade all those new Win7 system to Win8 anytime soon. Win8 looks like it will be another Win ME or BOB at this point.
      linux for me
      • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

        @linux for me, funny I've been hearing the exact opposite. The corporations I've been speaking too are excited about the new "Dashboard", the holy grail that corporations have spent years searching for. They look forward to the Metro Start screen and creating custom applications that can "peer" into their own business processes while bubbling up relevant information onto the dashboard.

        Unlike current tablets, system administrators will be able to create group policies that will create a unified dashboard experience for their users and finally deliver on the promise that so many have been searching for.
        gomigomijunk
      • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

        @gomigomijunk

        If all that corporations are searching is the 'dashboard' they already have it: in MacOS X.
        Stable, UNIX based OS. Pretty as well.

        I happen to live in a country, where people were told to "wait for the bright future".
        Something, that Microsoft is doing for so many years.
        People in my country eventually got pissed of. Don't you think PC users aren't, already?
        danbi
  • From the same people who brought you Vista and Kin

    Microsoft makes the same mistake over and over again.

    With Windows 8 comes another locked and closed system that will fail like the others. Windows 8 comes with features such as DRM to stop you installing an alternate OS (like Android or Ubuntu) on the tablet you just bought.

    Windows 8 will not please anyone, and will join Microsoft's hall of fame with other products such as Zune and Kin.
    Vbitrate
    • WHAT?

      @gjafg

      Out of the approaching 500M Win7 licenses, what % do you think went to people interested in replacing the OS? Why on earth would you suggest this as a reason for W8 being on the path to failure? Moreover, how many people replace OSX with something else?
      jjworleyeoe
      • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

        @jjworleyeoe

        That would be 400 million. If I am to believe what I have read.
        Apple will have 500 million devices in the wild by Q3 2015.
        So much for that 95% dominance enjoyed by Mr Softie...hehe
        Dr. Figgnuttan
      • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

        @jjworleyeoe To presume even a fraction of that number rushed out and eagerly bought W7 because it was "the best OS ever" is specious at best. The vast majority of those sales were made to IT dept geeks who need the job security that MS as provided since DOS. The current trend of businesses allotting money for users to buy their own laptops or pads has seen Apple products surge tremendously while WinTel PCs are literally flatlining sales.
        dheady@...
      • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

        @dheady Windows PCs aren't flatlining in sales. In fact, in 2011, they dropped by about 8% from 2010, once you filter out MacOS PCs (which grew in unit shipments, even though Apple's professional sales are dropping fast).

        But, love 'em or hate 'em, you can't ignore Apple. They currently make about 5x the profit on each Mac PC they sell, compared to a company like HP or Dell. Part of this is the same strategy as on the iPhone and iPad.. they have very few actual different models. With the exception of the fading Mac Pro, every machine they sell is a laptop. The iMacs are all using laptop motherboards, and of course, include the extra profits from shipping a new screen with every unit, just as the laptops. Even the Mac Mini is built from the same basic Intel laptop chipsets. So they have a huge volume of the same parts, making each part cheaper than the regular PC vendors.

        Apple ships about 5% of the world's PCs. But they make profits as if they shipped 25% of the world's PCs. That makes them effectively the largest PC vendor by far, even if they're not actually making that many units.

        And PCs are only 20% or so of Apple's business these days. iOS is the big money maker. And while Android has provided some competition, if you look at the numbers, Apple and Android have both grown, largely by eating up sales of mobile devices from RIM, Microsoft, Nokia, etc. And PCs.

        Windows 8 is Microsoft's attempt to leverage the desktop to shore up their mobile market. Mobile devices aren't going away. My new smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, is faster than my desktop was ten years ago, as well as being faster than every laptop I've owned other than my current one. Sure, it's phone sized, though it works perfectly well with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (yeah, you even get a cursor). Tablets are kind of a gizmo today, but there's no reason anymore than increasing numbers of users won't choose tablets or even smartphones as their primary computing devices.

        Microsoft actually does understand this, I believe. This is why they're risking Windows 8 as another possible Vista disaster -- or worse -- in order to get users off Win32/64 as much as possible and on to Metro/WinRT, which is going to work nicely on tablets and phones. The problem is, they're force-feeding the whole mobile OS onto the desktop to get users accepting this, not offering them a whole lot of options. And while their design may be ok on tablets (tried a Windows 7 Phone myself, though it was kind of stupid... but you do get used to anything you're forced to use, day in, day out, right), but it's going to suck on desktops. And there's not much of an opt-out, at least in the Developer Preview release. Plus, Windows 8 doesn't seem to be offering much of anything for the desktop users... it's all about leveraging Windows users into this totally new OS that just happens to also be called Windows.
        Hazydave
    • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

      @gjafg

      LOL! What are you talking about? Hey, buddy, I'll let you in on a little secret.... I'm dual booting my laptop with Windows 7 and Ubuntu, and I have a virtual machine on my desktop running Fedora Core. Wanna know how I did it? Simple, simply installed them.

      But please don't cry about tablets. Windows 8 isn't the only tablets to feature locked boot loaders.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • You installed it on a CURRENT PC

        @Cylon Centurion
        If MS have their way, the next PC you buy will have a locked-down EFI (unless you DIY, of course)
        financegozu
      • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

        @financegozu

        x86 hardware will continue like it is now. Secured Boot will be able to be disabled.

        [i]MANDATORY: Enable/Disable Secure Boot. [b]On non-ARM systems[/b], it is required to implement the ability to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup. A physically present user must be allowed to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup without possession of PKpriv [the private key that supports Secure Boot].[/i]
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Windows 8 is a big risk to the consumer PC industry

        @financegozu [b]If MS have their way, the next PC you buy will have a locked-down EFI (unless you DIY, of course)[/b]

        Ummm no. x32/64 systems will NOT be locked down unless the end user locks it down. ARM systems [i]shipping[/i] with Windows 8 will be locked down. But one CAN buy ARM systems that do not ship with Windows 8 so this whole SJVN-fueled jihad is based on FUD, misinformation, and lies. But don't take my word for it or SJVN's - do some research and make up your own mind.
        athynz