Can Windows 9 save Windows?

Can Windows 9 save Windows?

Summary: If the word on the street is that Microsoft is currently aiming for a Windows 9 release date of April 2015, this gives the company a little over a year to fix Windows. So what does Microsoft need to do to fix Windows?

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TOPICS: Windows 8
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I've not been shy about how over the past year of so I've distanced myself a great deal from Microsoft and the Windows ecosystem, despite having devoted almost 20 years to the platform. With Windows 8, Microsoft took its flagship platform in a direction that wasn't compatible with what I wanted from an operating system. But with Windows 9 now in the pipeline, can Microsoft save Windows and tempt me back into the ecosystem?

The hole that Microsoft has to somehow dig itself out of is indeed a deep one. Don't believe me? Take a look at what Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott wrote over the weekend:

"Windows 8 is tanking harder than Microsoft is comfortable discussing in public, and the latest release, Windows 8.1, which is a substantial and free upgrade with major improvements over the original release, is in use on less than 25 million PCs at the moment."

It gets worse:

"Windows 8 has set back Microsoft, and Windows, by years, and possibly for good."

Those words should send a shudder through anyone reading who thinks that Windows is too big to fail. Microsoft can't keep stumbling out of the gate with Windows releases and that not have a huge knock-on effect on the entire PC ecosystem.

So, if the word on the street is that Microsoft is currently aiming for a Windows 9 release date of April 2015, this gives the company a little over a year to fix Windows. In fact, a year is far too optimistic, taking betas and bug fixing into account, Microsoft has maybe at tops 9 months to figure out what people want from Windows 9.

So what does Microsoft need to do to fix Windows?

Well, bottom line, I think it needs to do what I and many other pundits said it needed to do before Windows 8 was released, and that's make Windows more suited to desktop and notebook PCs – you know, the platforms used by almost a billion PC users – and focus less on niche touch-enabled systems.

Put another way, this means making Windows 9 more like Windows 7 than Windows 8. That's a promising start, because Microsoft already has a basis for this – it's called Windows 7.

Another thing I'd like to see Microsoft do is take the focus off apps and put it back on onto rich, fully-featured applications that Windows users know and love. While I'm not ready to say that Microsoft's foray into Windows 8 apps has been a failure, it's hardly been a success either. While apps make sense on smartphones and tablets, both of which have limited screen size and system resources, they made far less sense on a PC.

Why choose to run cut-down, low information density apps when you have all those gigahertz and terabytes at your disposal? Clearly given the tepid interest in Windows apps, I'm not the only person wondering this.

I'd also like to feel that Microsoft has a vision for Windows, and not a "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" attitude. Making changes in Windows 8, and then later backpedaling on them in Windows 8.1, causes a great deal of stress for users, consumers and enterprise alike. It's a needless productivity hit, and in an enterprise environment that translates into lost dollars.

If the current crop of rumors are on the ball – and so far I haven't seen any leaked code to be able to confirm or deny them – then Microsoft is planning to make changes to Windows so that Metro apps will run on the Windows desktop. This allows Microsoft to do what I believed it should have done from the beginning – combine the traditional Windows Desktop with the Start Screen into a single user feature; the Windows Desktop. The Windows Desktop was familiar to all Windows users, and tinkering with it for the sake of a small number of people running Windows system with touch capability was foolhardy, playing fast and loose with one of the company's biggest assets.

Finally, what about the calls for Microsoft to follow in Apple's footsteps and give Windows away for free? This "free Windows" could take on two forms. The first would be free upgrades for all Windows users, along the lines of what Apple offers. This would not only help encourage more users onto the new platform, but it would also help OEMs sell new PCs to those who can't upgrade.

The second form of free would be for Microsoft to make Windows free to OEMs, eliminating license fees and following a path laid down by Android and ChromeOS. This would force Microsoft to abandon the upfront revenue it receives from sales of Windows licenses and instead make its money back from service such as Bing, Skype, and Office 365, while giving OEMs a little more wriggle room on pricing.

While it seems like a huge revenue stream to give up, Microsoft could also continue to pull in revenue from the lucrative server market, not to mention enterprise support. And this doesn't touch the Office cash cow.

A free Windows would certainly change the tech landscape, but Microsoft would need to have all its ducks in a row with a change like that, because it's the sort of move that the company wouldn't be able to backpedal out of.

It's also worth considering that talk of "free Windows" – even if it is nothing more than rumors and speculation – could have a dampening effect on sales of Windows 8.1 as people sit on their wallets and see what the future brings.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Windows 8 the company's "riskiest product bet." Looks like the bet didn't pay off. But the future seems like it might be full of risky bets for whoever takes over the reigns from Ballmer.

As I've said before, if Windows works for you, then that's great. Stick with what works for you. I for one certainly won't sneer or look down on you or go all fanboy. After all, I remember – with fondness, and more than a hint of sadness – a time when it worked for me.

Personal preferences are, after all, personal.

However, whether you're a fan of Windows or not, and whether you think Windows 8/8.1 is the right way to do Windows or not, you need to get ready for more changes to the way you work.

Topic: Windows 8

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200 comments
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  • For what it's worth...

    Windows 8 and 8.1 marketshare is still greater than all OS X versions combined. Microsoft's "failure" outpaces Apple's best efforts. Must be nice.
    Big Sparky
    • Agreed.

      Who says it needs saving?

      Plus "free Windows". And Microsoft, who gets their revenue from software should give away their products?

      Sure - as soon as Apple gives me and anyone else interested free MacBooks.
      William.Farrel
      • Microsoft will be very happy

        When they reach 20% market share - Apple just needs to stay below 10%.
        Hopefully guys at Microsoft will see winning as something completely different.
        AleMartin
        • Winning by giving away

          billions of dollars of product while their competitors charge for theirs?

          I really don't see that as "winning".

          For a business, it's not about "winning" it's about being profitable, which MS is.

          Giving away billions in products isn't "losing" it's call "unprofitable".

          The latter leads to "bankruptcy".......
          William.Farrel
          • Non issue

            Windows need to evolve and it will. Win 8 didn't go far enough and Win9 will probably push the mobile envelope further while offering a more desirable desktop experience. But overall, Windows is doing fine right now.

            Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is reminding us ounce again how he would rather live on a planet where there would be no Ms windows around.
            gbouchard99@...
          • filthy microsoft troll

            is amazed by the fact that there are normal people who want our planet without microsoft on it.
            notomsnotonsa
          • Then I suppose IBM, RH, Google ...

            Are actually bankrupt and out of business?

            Yup, you were wrong again.
            jessepollard
          • Do Google let people advertise for free?

            Do IBM give away their servers? No? Didn't think so.
            KOL2024
          • Did you even think about what you said?

            You mentioned IBM, RH, and Google. IBM has no OS aside from servers, which they make a killing on. RH charges support agreements to be able to use it, so again it is not free. Google does have Chrome OS and Android which rely on services that generate huge revenues. Microsoft can't use that approach, just look at all the EU antitrust agreements. If Microsoft pushed any service with their OS they would lose billions in fines.
            lilbubba
          • Nobody wants desktop Windows with an interface designed for a phone

            The trouble started when Microsoft's Windows Phone failed. It has less than 10% market share, even less than Windows Mobile that it replaced.

            Microsoft panicked. It decided to force people to use the Windows Phone interface, and so it put the Windows Phone Metro interface on desktop Windows. Of course nobody wanted it.

            In Windows 9, everyone wants Microsoft to get rid of the Metro interface. But Microsoft still wants to force people to use it. So Windows 9 will still be the same disaster Windows 8 was.

            Apple is in a better position. OS X and iOS are essentially the same OS with different interfaces.

            Enterprise will increasingly use Linux, rather than put up with products they don't want, such as the disastrous Metro interface seen on Windows 8, and soon Windows 9.
            Vbitrate
          • Turn the Vibrator off.

            Of course nobody wants desktop Windows with an interface designed for a phone.

            Isn't that why Windows 8 has a desktop interface designed for desktops?

            Everybody wants to get rid of the Metro UI?

            Please define "everyone". By everyone, do you mean yourself and your "special" right hand?

            OS X and iOS are essentially the same OS with different interfaces? No, they are not. Chrome OS is not the same as Android, is it?

            Enterprises will increasingly use Linux? Well yeah, of course. Linux runs on everything including phones, servers, and coffee machines.

            PCs? They'll be running Windows, because businesses need something secure, reliable, and readily available. Whether it's XP, Vista, 7, 8, or 9, Windows is the operating system of choice for the business world.

            You can argue out that some major companies run on Linux or OS X, but by far, the majority of successful enterprises run on, shocker, Windows.

            Businesses need to be productive, retraining all of your staff to use a completely different operating system and rewriting all of your software, as opposed to simply using downgrade rights or making a small training manual doesn't sound very useful to me. And don't bring up WINE, that's a work-around, not a solution.

            Make all the assumptions you want, but if something has had minuscule market-share for years, it can only grow, right?
            ForeverCookie
          • filthy microsoft troll advocates censorship

            what else to expect from ms/nsa brainwashed creep
            notomsnotonsa
          • notomsnotonsa

            You enjoy reading your filth don't ya. Takes all kinds but then usually one kind can spot the same kinds so I guess that is why you can spot TROLLS. If you had something intelligent to add to the discussion it may even be worth your effort.
            lwetzel
          • Windows interface

            Vbitrate I think you are right. In my opinion Microsoft got it almost perfect with Win XP eventually. Windows 7 was a sensible progression with little to offer but a variation on menu design. I was holding on to Win XP until my PC died. Forced to Win 8 I got Classic Start and do my best not to use Metro. With Metro on a desktop my speed was about 20% of that with XP.
            alfred@...
          • Tiles are not limited to phones

            If you stop worrying about appearances you might overcome your bias and see some value in the tiles. As I type this response, on my second monitor I can see at a quick glance... the current temperature (40 deg C) the forecast for today and tomorrow, a reminder to do something in 30mins from now and no currently unread emails. 3 news headlines at a time which keep cycling, the recent twitter messages on my timeline and sports headlines. I can see article headlines for Appy Geek and several other tech apps which look nicer than the websites. I can have a lot more information if I so choose.

            While you whinge about the Start screen I get useful information from it at a glance. Personally, I think it is a brilliant interface and wouldn't go back to Windows 7 if you paid me to!
            MelbourneTweetr
          • @MelbourneTweetr: well, maybe good for you...

            ...but why would I want the childish, low res, kiddy colour tiles infesting my 30" 2560 x1600 res hi def screen?

            Your second monitor could just as easily be a tablet to get such info more suitably presented...

            Horses for courses, but not on this thoroughbred thanks...
            btone-c5d11
          • They don't give their products away

            IBM Hardware isn't free, googles ads aren't free, and red hat charges a pretty penny for server support.

            Imagine that....
            William.Farrel
          • filthy microsoft troll

            uses typical goebbels propaganda spins
            notomsnotonsa
          • @notomsnotonsa

            See you're proving my point, AGAIN.
            lwetzel
          • filthy microsoft troll

            refuses to get it how software business now works
            notomsnotonsa