How Windows 8 will take on Chrome and Android

How Windows 8 will take on Chrome and Android

Summary: Windows chief Steve Sinofsky talks about whether the rise of netbooks and lighter-weight operating systems is having any impact on Microsoft's strategy


Windows 7 is the best-selling version of the operating system ever, according to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

The software maker has sold more than 60 million licences for it, and the demand helped lift Microsoft's second-quarter results. That may not be down to consumers alone — Forrester Research figures indicate that 66 percent of companies plan to upgrade to Windows 7.

The question is, what should Microsoft should do next with Windows? There are still plenty of challenges for the operating system, with Google's cloud-focused Chrome OS on the horizon, and the first Android-powered smartbooks expected to arrive soon. In addition, the next generation of web technologies will give browser applications a lot more power.

ZDNet UK asked Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, how Windows 8 will compete, given the cloud and the growing enthusiasm for lightweight smartphone operating systems on netbooks.

Sinofsky has been credited with turning Windows development around after Vista, and with instituting a new, more rigorous engineering process at Microsoft. We asked him where he thinks Windows will be going in 2010 and beyond.

Q: Will the success of Windows 7 be a problem for Windows 8? How do you make sure you do something that moves the state of the art forward?
A: There's no answer to that. That's what we do, and that's the work we're going to do. It's the balance between solving problems and innovation.

There are rumours of a very rigid masterplan for Windows 8, with no more unsponsored projects allowed and everything dictated from the top.
That wouldn't be how I would work. In fact, nothing could be less... The very last thing great product development needs is one person saying how it should be. If you think about the complexity of our industry, there isn't one person who could do all of this.

Are Android and Chrome OS making you change the way you think about what an operating system is? What makes sense in the age of the cloud, versus the full-powered operating system that's the traditional Windows approach?
There's no SD [card] slot in the cloud. I was looking at the cloud, and there's no print button on the cloud. There's a lot of things missing.

Think about the analogy I've made before where Windows is the movie theatre, and it's the software that is the movies. The movie theatre has a set of things it has to do. No matter what technology is used to build movies, and no matter what the movies do, you still need to sit down and have air-conditioning and snacks.

There's a whole bunch of stuff in your PC, and it's not clear which of those you give up when you switch to the cloud. That's the equivalence: if you want to use a cloud-based app, you still need a keyboard, you still need graphics.

And it turns out those things are all really important for enjoying software. When you think about how...

Topic: Operating Systems

Simon Bisson

About Simon Bisson

Simon Bisson is a freelance technology journalist. He specialises in architecture and enterprise IT. He ran one of the UK's first national ISPs and moved to writing around the time of the collapse of the first dotcom boom. He still writes code.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • NOT - How Win8 will take on . . .

    It's noticable how Mr Sinofsky doesn't really tell you anything despite the amount of words he speaks. For instance, he doesn't answer on the question of Android and Chrome affecting Windows development, nor does he really say anything about Windows in a cloud environment. Rather he just talks about movie theatres.

    As for browsers having access to all hardware including memory not being an issue, all I can say is he's obviously not aware of what the MS browser has allowed into machines in the past. He has no clue about security.

    And rather that talk about what MS is doing to bring an O/S to smaller devices, all he does is carp on about how many devices there are. Then on the question of Android having better battery life than Windows Mr Sinofsky starts a speech about LED screens - again not what was asked.

    No part of this interview is even slightly close to the title of this article. For this man to be the "President of Windows", he doesn't half talk a load of hot air.
    Fat Pop Do Wop
  • Great interview

    Great interview Simon, thanks for sharing this.

    I agree with Steven, there are lots of things missing in the cloud and Windows is still what people really want and need, even if they don't always realize it since the lines are so blurred. Perhaps they will realize what is missing when they try Chrome OS!

    In the meantime, I'm glad I can enjoy Windows 7 today and I can't wait until most companies make the switch so they can see the improved efficiency, added productivity and lowered costs of ownership.

    Anyway, follow us @CIOsConnect, we like the conversation!

    Microsoft Windows Client Team
  • Really?

    I agree that the "cloud" doesn't cover all bases. And I've long thought that some industry sectors cannot trust their sensitive data to third parties (doctors for instance) so in-house servers/data storage will never go away. However, Windows is not necessarily what people really need. A good secure local computer system is what people really need.

    And I'm not convinced by your assertion that Win 7 is more cost-effective than other O/S's, effervescent though your comments are. Of all the operating systems my customers have, it's call-outs to the MS Windows ones that earn my wages by a factor of more than 1000 when compared to the Linux computers I look after. So I really appreciate Microsoft for that.

    What about the huge hardware overhead of all the recent Microsoft operating systems? Will there be any reversal of the trend to bloat? That would be a plus for many small businesses who can't afford to beef up their hardware any time soon.

    Fat Pop Do Wop
  • Not How win8....

    He sounds more like a politician than an executive, side stepping the questions, changing the subject, etc. Maybe they are waiting to see what Jobs & Company do so they can imitate. If they continue on their present path, Google, Apple, & Linux will overrun them.
  • What people want and need?

    MSFT Alex

    It's understood that company people have to rally support, but with all the innovation coming from Google, Apple, & Linux, MS is having a hard time trying to keep up with everybody. Even by forcing people to pay for windows on a new computer purchase, there is no guarantee that it will be used. A lot of those computers have their hard drives reformatted and changed to a Linux box. My laptops, and netbooks have all been switched to Linux, and I have given live CD's to people at work and many of them have switched, because of security, speed, and ease of use.
  • Google Blow A great Chance

    Nice interview, and it just reminded me that google have blown a great chance to have created a fully functional and maybe great operating system. It too along with Linux, Mac and Windows could have been tapping the ever improving hardware that we have constantly hoisted upon ourselves. Instead all we'll get is a bunch of dusty hardware sitting on shelves that people became tired of. Maybe a future version will be an OS with some decent functionality.
    roger andre
  • Trailing Edge Technology

    Actually as Pop pointed out the Microsoft rep/salesman really didn't address any of the substantial issues raised. As I think back, every freaking interview I've read where the interview target was a MS mouthpiece, semantic noise & double-speak nothingness is the result.

    Windows means not committing to anything new, taking the "safe" path, letting someone else innovate first and then buying or stealing their ideas.