Microsoft's Windows 8: Pondering the launch scenarios

Microsoft's Windows 8: Pondering the launch scenarios

Summary: Anyone who tells you he knows how fast Windows 8 will be adopted is lying. Microsoft deserves credit for its big bet on Windows 8, but the outcome is far from predictable.

Will the Surface carry team Microsoft?

Microsoft launches Windows 8 this week the company's mobile and tablet strategy depends on how the operating system is received. Perhaps the biggest wild card is guessing how fast Windows 8 will be adopted.

The user interface is different. The hardware choices are all over the place. It's unclear whether Windows 8 will be able to bridge smartphones, tablets and PCs. And no one knows how Microsoft's Surface or these newfangled hybrid devices will fare.

Ed Bott: Hands on with Microsoft's Surface RT: Can it hit the sweet spot?

In other words, anyone who tells you how Windows 8 will play out in the market place is full of it. The Windows 8 launch could be a simple binary event: It'll thrive or dive. Or Windows 8 may land somewhere in the middle.

Related: Apple's Mac moves take advantage of Windows 8 hardware uncertainty | Windows 8's competition is Google first, Apple iPad second | Windows devices: A cure for the post-PC plague? | Windows 8 is the new XP | Delaying Windows Upgrades: Do You Feel Lucky?

For me, the hardware in the Windows 8 equation is a total grab bag. As I noted on Wednesday, the Wintel ecosystem is throwing devices up against a wall to see what sticks. The devices that have revolved around Windows 8 are plentiful and unknown commodities.


On the software side of the equation, Windows 8 requires a learning curve. And some gestures just aren't intuitive. Windows 8 with a mouse annoys me. A touchscreen laptop seems to work well with the OS. I had to try a bunch of devices to figure out which one would work for me. Everyone will have to go through the same process.

Add it up and it's a leap of faith to just close your eyes and preorder something---including the Surface. The people who preorder blindly may become the biggest critics of Windows 8.

I'm not going to bother making some big prediction. If I were to guess, I'd say Windows 8 will launch, a few loud folks will scream and a backlash will ensue, word of mouth will be so-so at best and then Windows 8 will ultimately be adopted. Multiple pundits will call Windows 8 a failure prematurely and could be proven wrong.

With that backdrop it's worth pondering the rollout scenarios. Here's a look at the three scenarios in order of probability.

  1. A flurry of activity and then a slow crawl. There's just no way that the average bear is going to get Windows 8 in just a few seconds. Windows 8 on a tablet works well. Windows 8 on a laptop or PC can annoy you. Half of the Windows 8 adopters will reside in desktop mode so the OS acts like Windows 7. Under this scenario, Microsoft will take a perception hit and then recover. Ultimately, Windows users will get on board with the latest release. It could take a year before Windows 8 gets its hero device that's mainstream. Under this scenario, Microsoft's Surface does ok, but isn't a cult favorite.
  2. The big bang. Microsoft's Windows 8 adoption and buzz is carried by the Surface. Hardware partners are angry and flopping, but Microsoft's bet pays off. The worries about Windows 8's learning curve are overblown. People get it and Windows 8 pulls Windows Phone demand along. Microsoft executes on its multiscreen strategy and grabs some market share. In addition, Microsoft grows its app selection and developers see it as a viable mobile player. Nevertheless, the mobile world remains the domain of Apple and Google's Android. Microsoft becomes a solid No. 3 and enterprises put the software giant in their mobile plans.
  3. Vista redux. Windows 8 stumbles out of the gate and makes no dent in the post-PC market. After early critics dominate the discussion, consumer word of mouth kills Windows 8. People with convertible tablet/laptop devices are openly mocked. Microsoft's influence wanes. After the Windows 8 debacle, Microsoft begins to ponder a breakup. Xbox is spun off in a unit. The consumer division separates from Microsoft's enterprise unit, which by the way carries the company going forward. Microsoft ceases to be everything to everyone and focuses on business technology.

Those three scenarios could ultimately blend together and as usual the truth probably lies somewhere between No. 1 and No. 2. A complete failure is possible, but Windows 8 is compelling. This view has been influenced by my 10-year-old daughter. I installed Windows 8 on an old laptop and handed it to her with one request: Tell me what you think?

On day one, she went with the desktop mode right away. She called the Windows 8 interface weird. Two weeks later she was messing around with the Windows 8 interface as the Windows 7 view faded away. In other words, Windows 8 grew on her. Windows 8 probably still ranks behind Mac OS X and Windows 7, but has appeal. That Windows 8 adoption curve, however, may take time.

Topics: Windows, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Mobility, Tablets, PCs

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  • it is another vista

    being a technet member and custom computer builder, i have had the chance to test windows 8 since the first beta,

    sorry ms! there is no way that i will sell it to my customers on a PC. or tell them it is what it isn't . it is simply not a desktop/pc operating system at this time. microsoft!your trying to turn a desktop into a smart phone or tablet is a bad move in my mind and those of several other IT techs i know.

    it simply isn't easy for the average non tablet or smart phone pc/laptop only user to use,, the learning curve for a average office worker will be a problem. the mouse as we know it, may as well be worthless, there are hard ware issues with their driver software being incompatabile, a example being printers, some just months to maybe a year old! all ready don't have the new drivers out, some never will.

    plus how are people going to adjust to touch screen on a desktop working from a office desk? that didn't catch on with the mouse like touch pen way back in windows 3.11 for work groups. plus it will not be easy for many to use due to age , movement problems, the discomfort of reaching up to touch the screen to open a ap.

    at the very least MS needs to add to the allready something like 170 mb's of updates just released. a option for the average non techie to return the desktop to the old classic veiw. then time will tell just how well it takes on.and this my own personal veiw
    • Hmmm...

      If you are arguing that Windows 8 is a mobile device OS while too hard for people to figure out on the desktop, you seem to be contradicting yourself. The tech illiterate buy up mobile devices because they are easy to use, less expensive, etc. Now, if you can have that SAME view on multiple devices, that's less to learn. Oh... and apps? They'll come and be available on RT and x86/x64. I don't think anyone doubts that. Now you get the same app experience across all your devices. The ONLY people I know complaining about Windows 8 are the tech elite that are shaking in their boots because they won't be experts out of the gate. The reality is the non-tech elite (including early adapters) haven't really seen Windows 8 nor used it outside of two short commercials.

      I wanted my mom to get a Windows Phone instead of an iPhone because I didn't want to teach her two different UIs. Keep in mind, I was arguing she'll be wasting $30+ a month on data that she'll never, ever use. Instead, my brother convinced her to buy the iPhone 5 and is now stuck hopelessly trying to teach her how to use something she didn't even need in the first place. He gave up in less than a week. At least I'm off the hook from fielding any questions as that was my condition of her getting the iPhone- he wanted her to have it so he gets to deal with her calls. My mom is your typical mom- used Windows PCs at work before retiring and at home does email, facebook, and clicks on links she probably shouldn't... rarely does she even use an Office program. She wanted an iPhone simply because her friends had them. She could care less about the OS so long as the computer or phone she owns is inexpensive (she was originally hoping for $99 or less). I'm hoping she buys an RT hybird for her next computer in a few years simply so she can't install 50,000 toolbars and all sorts of crapware.

      If you think Windows is going to abandon the Windows 8 app idea, you're being foolish and overly hopeful. There's a video floating around of a 3 year old using the new start screen and Windows 8 style apps. If you think people are going to struggle learning it, get over yourself. There will be the initial "OMG, where's the start button" and then, "oh... this is actually very cool." This is from my personal experiences showing it off to iPhone loving PC users.
      • Windows 8 stinks

        Windows 8 is a giant step backward with it's child-like oversized icons and lack of a good start menu like "Free Launch Bar"
        • Memory usage does not add up!

          How is it possible for Windows 8 to use less memory than 7! When they added an enormous, outlandish start screen. How is this possible??? If you are doing something memory extensive on the desktop, does metro stop like a application. The desktop I thought was the main UI, not metro!
          Pollo Pazzo
          • How do you use your computer?

            The "main UI" should be the program(s) you are using and not the operating system. Otherwise, you are implying you spend more time looking at your desktop wallpaper than actually doing using programs and thus doing work... that's the case for an OS, gaming devices, etc.

            So you're asking how it is possible for a company to write a more efficient operating system? Why do you comment on things when clearly you've never used the OS?
          • Yes

            Yes, please MS, make it use more memory.

            We DEMAND our Vista/7 bloat back!! The value proposition just doesn't work this way.

            Oh, wait.
            Han CNX
    • You fail

      You fail to see the wood for the trees. Every PC released in the next 6 months will have a touch screen or an option for that. Secondly, if you can't recommend this to any of your clients you are withholding a very secure and stable OS from them because you don't like it. Very very bad customer service there.

      I have given the OS to several people to run and after the initial confusion they picked it up pretty quickly. All of them enjoyed the speed, reliability and security that comes with it. The Metro UI is obstructive to you because you actively go out to make it that way when its only there to make your life easier.

      And remember, the world is moving to a 'Content consumption first' computing era where the 'Desktop' will become ever more irrelevant. For the average consumer, the Metro interface is perfect and will keep them from destroying their computers with hundreds of toolbar downloads.

      Try to think of the big picture before you run yourself into a wall.
      • And I need Windows for...,

        content consumption? For what reason? DRM is the only reason I can think of.
      • Consumption is not business.

        Businesses rely on Windows. Mac OS and iOS are much better at a less complex consumer based PC model, mainly because they require very little learning curve. For MS a whole business is based on people learning productivity from MS authorized methods. Apple people mostly learn on their own, through word of mouth or the Genius bar. So your argument points out the sad notion that MS wants what Apple has, when honestly they don't need it. They already have wrestled much of Apple's former strongholds of Education and Creative Media, essentially profitable niche markets. MS is like GM, Toyota and Ford rolled into one, where Apple at its best is a Honda, Lexus, Mercedes market. I use a W7 Phone and mostly like it and would love to see it eat the low end mobile market since iPhone really isn't going to. I despise Android because they are thieves in much the way MS stole from Apple in the 80s but then MS started to do its own thing and I respect them for it, bland as it is.
      • well said

        What baffles me is the Media swirling rumors of how this is so different and a challenge to learn. Are people that dysfunctional that they can't pick up a device and learn something new? Hmmm they all did it with IOS and Android. I remember the challenge I had when I went from a Tricycle to a Bi-Cycle. My goodness I was so scared to go from 3 wheels to two. It was such a radical redesign there's no way I should have been able to climb aboard and propel myself down the road....BUT I DID! People aren't monkeys...they adapt and learn quickly. This learning curve will subside and people will accept Windows 8. If you're in IT and discourage it you should be ashamed for abusing your technical background. A lot of PC Techies fear that they'll lose access to what the PC has become over the last 30 years...if MS fails you may lose that anyways.
    • You need to get it.

      Not getting it will cost you. If you are not going to be offering your customers Windows 8, you might be missing the boat. What happens when other builders start building Windows 8 and you don't? Like tablets, personal computers are now going to have multi-touch capability. Touch screens have been around for a while but they are nothing like the one's that are starting to come out for Windows 8. Touch is much easier to get used to than a mouse. It's more natural feeling. Even a child can point with a finger easier than with a mouse. In your testing, have you tested on a multi-touch monitor? Have you seen how totally cool and fluid the PC becomes when you combine keyboard/mouse input with multi-touch monitor input? It is a really big deal but your are not getting it! Check out the new Dell S2340T, the Acer T231H, the Viewsonic VX2258WM multi-touch monitors. 10 point multi-touch! And, if you want to keep your non touch monitors, check out the new multi-touch wireless touch pads coming out. Using that will blow make your traditional mouse obsolete really fast. Do any of your business customers work with engineer drawings or graphics publications? If they do, they will really want a Windows 8 computers with multi-touch. Once you see how much more productive they can be, they'll want it. I myself have not tried it yet but I can't wait to use both a mouse or touchpad and my left hand on the screen at the same time.
    • Yes, its another Vista!

      I have supported small business users (Realtors and Sales) for over 30 years. Yes I have sold IBM-PC with PC-DOS 1.0 Windows 8 is another Vista! I will know when PCs with Windows 8 hit the local market, my phone will start buzzing. My clients buy a new system, turn it on and expect to start working as soon as the OS and Email is configured. Windows 8 like Vista requires a complete learning curve. My clients don't have the time for that.
      Touch screens on a desktop PC, no way! Try touching the screen of your laptop while it is sitting on your lap. Try reaching across your keyboard to touch yor monitor on your desktop. Please stop!!!
      Microsoft had better keep Windows 7 available until we get Windows 9, just like they kept XP available until Windows 7. We skipped Vista, and we will skip Windows 8.
      • Narrow minded vision

        You are missing an oppertunity to teach your clients. You could probably settle for a 5min tutorial. If your clients can't take 5 minutes to learn something that a 3 year old can learn then I'm afraid that learning Windows 8 is the least of their problems. Soon they won't be able to compete with the rest of the world and go out of business, problem solve!!!
        • RE: Clients are not 3 or 10 year olds

          Their brains are like sponges and 3 year olds like to touch everything, that is what they do. using them as an example is silly. Let's be optimistic and say 75% of the clients get it and love it. The other 25% just won't "get it", they will need hours of retraining and there still will be a loss of productivity because they are working with something they despise or are not a good fit for(Touch screen is bad for klutzes). Being 2012 the company will fire these "grandpas" no matter how good they were and there will still be be a job learning curve for the newbies.
          • Oh, I don't know

            The CEOs I've encountered act like 9 year olds, so Windows 8 should be just fine for them.

            Of course, my cat has a longer attention span, so the CEOs remembering the access might be a problem, but not to worry -- they'll just write it all down on the yellow sticky next to their password.
    • Don't generalize.

      Before actually trying Win 8, I was more than skeptic about how it would fit my PC -a fairly old system- how I would use my mouse/keyboard to navigate this bizarre new start screen...

      After less than a week with it (installed it last Thursday) I find nothing wrong with it. It took me less than two hours to learn the new moves and shortcuts. Of course there are still things I have not discovered, but I barely find the need to use Win 7 anymore.

      All my peripherals worked right off the bat. Even my graphics card (which gave me some trouble in 7) was auto-calibrated as soon as I landed on the start screen.

      Will everyone have my same experience? Of course not, some will love it some will hate it. Some will resist change, just as those still using XP do resisted switching to 7.

      The necessary learning curve is beyond doubt, but I believe that if people try it with an open mind, some may end up like me, loving it.
  • Thoughts on Windows 8

    Window RT is not what you think it is! It looks like Windows x86, and the desktop looks like the regular one, but it is extremely limited to ARM apps! I tested Windows 8 x86, I ran an program from 1998 and it worked extremely well!! The one major flaw is Metro. Everything works fine, except having to use metro!! Microsoft designed Windows 8 for touchscreens first, and mouse and keyboards second!! If you look at Windows 7, the taskbar was designed for touch as it is big. Microsoft has been heading in this direction. I dont understand how Metro does not use a big bite of memory when being run in the background. The start menu probably uses a lesser footprint. I think it is funny that Microsoft thought no one uses the start menu anymore, so they replaced with a giant start menu! So, they moved a door that was conveniently on the first floor of the building to the second floor now with a set of stairs. That is exactly what they did with the start menu and metro!! Everyone who has been using XP is finally migrating to Windows 7, and that may be the killer for windows 8. Sometimes change was good like from Windows 2000/ME to XP phasing out MS-DOS. But sometimes making changes like Windows 8 is not good. The start menu is the most iconic feature to Windows. They should have just created a touch screen windows os to go along with the desktop and laptop windows os. I thinking craming everything into one OS to run on everything is a huge mistake!
    Pollo Pazzo
    • So you don't understand

      how Metro doesn't take up a large memory footprint so therefore it must? Considering Windows 8 uses less memory out of the box than Windows 7 I'm not sure I follow your logic there. Perhaps you should do some fact checking.

      The Start Menu is the most iconic feature in Windows? Perhaps back in Windows 95. Now the start menu may as well be referred to as the search menu. You know that option you have to submit data for product improvement whenever you install MS software? That sends them data such as average start menu usage and, from the cold, hard facts, they found the Start Menu was seldom used by the vast majority of people. They pinned programs or put them on the desktop. Which works EXACTLY like it did before on a desktop. The new task bar designed for touch screen? Are you smoking something?

      As for "forcing" Metro on everyone, it was the only real option. If you give people the option to not use something new, even if it could improve things, chances are they'll ignore it. Which would defeat the purpose of a new programming environment that will work across the Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows 8. You need the common ground across all the devices if you want this strategy to work.

      Many people have posted, at length, that the Metro UI on a standard desktop can be viewed as nothing more than a full screen Start Menu. It ultimately works the same way, you can search like you could in the old one. However what it does provide is access to an app you use on your tablet while on your desktop if you need it. So you're not losing functionality but possibly gaining it, even if it's something not every person would use. How is adding choice a bad thing?

      Some of these comments are pretty mind boggling. I suppose a "Desktop expert" (HA!) understands user habits and their ability to adapt. Never mind the fact that someone who has been a "desktop expert" for more than about a year or two [b]clearly[/b] shows that they lack the ability to adapt and move their career forward. I mean, honestly, if you can't move from supporting desktops in that time don't tell me you're a "technical elite" or "expert" on anything. You have the easiest, lowest paying job in the technical world and lack the ability to advance your career. So when you say that Windows 8 is a steep learning curve, I have no doubt it is for you. My 6 year old daughter never even skipped a bit, and neither did my wife and she is anything but technical. The few users we've had test it here, who ARE technical elite, have had no issues with it and actually like some of the advanced features.

      We won't see the true benefit of the Metro UI until a year of the tablet eco system developing. Until then it's "just a full screen start menu".
      • So true

        Well said LiquidLearner! I am in no hurry to adopt; but I will eventually. I have been using the betas since the first release and the OS has improved dramatically over the year.
        The problem people are complaining about is not the OS, the problem is change.

        This change was inevitable as Microsoft tries to catch up with Apple. The integration across XBOX (the most popular and superior gaming system in the world), Windows Phone (a superior user interface to Apple), and Surface brings them on par with the Apple eco system. Actually this trio makes apples ecosystem look archaic. Apple looks like a pretty version of windows 3.1 with about as much functionality. And with windows pro version Microsoft has kept its dominance in the business market.
      • About those Desktop Icons

        Liquid learner makes a point about MS' usage Metrics, but TBH the thing that stands out the most about WinRT (Metro whatevs) is that MS has actually caved in to waht users have been doing since Windows 3.1! I have been servicing user since back in the day and the one constant that strikes me is that almost all the users (myself included despite my effrots to NOT do this) is that the put ALL the application Icons on the desktop. Sure wev'e had the task bar but people dont like rooting around for stuff. They want to tunr the machine on (or wake it up) and click on the Icon they want RIGHT THERE! The Start screen is just a slick way of doing waht people have been doin all along. I am stunned that "Experts" and "Techno Elites" dont see this. I'ts like they never really pay attention to what users actually do! Oh wait judgin from some of the comments they don't, they would rather pontificate from on high "Your doing it wrong!" I know I was one of those guys, untill I realized one day that shaping all the icons on your desktop into the shape of p3nis increases your workflow Who the fudge am I to change that? (OK the new start menu may not be that flexible but still it's just doing what most users do anyways.