Mobile vs desktop: Microsoft's least significant challenge with Windows

Mobile vs desktop: Microsoft's least significant challenge with Windows

Summary: A lot has been written about the dual nature of Windows 8 and how it pits the desktop against mobile. That's not the biggest challenge facing Microsoft.

TOPICS: Mobility, Windows 8
Windows upgrade2

Whatever you feel about Windows 8, it's pretty good for both mobile devices and desktop PCs. A lot has been written about putting the mobile face (aka Metro/Modern) first over the Windows 7 style desktop in Windows 8.

Which face you prefer is largely dependent on what type of device you use with Windows 8. Microsoft has to deal with both camps and while that's hard to do it's not the biggest challenge the company faces with Windows.

Windows 8 adoption hasn't been setting Microsoft's world on fire. The percentage of Windows installations running Windows 8 is much smaller than that of Windows 7, and even those still running Windows XP. The following figures by Netmarketshare for January 2014 are based on web traffic so they are not official figures by any means, but they are useful for estimating the proportion of Windows installations running each version.

Web analytics by OS
(Image: Netmarketshare)

The huge number of Windows XP installations is particularly important as Microsoft prepares to end support for the 12 year old version of Windows. These are largely corporations who have felt no need to upgrade to either Windows 7 or Windows 8, but with security updates soon to end that needs to change.

ZDNet has outstanding resources to help deal with the Windows XP end of life.

The biggest competition for Windows 8 is not the iPad nor Android tablets, it's Microsoft's older versions of Windows.

Microsoft needs to get as many of these installations onto Windows 8 as possible, and that's probably a primary driver behind the expected focus on the desktop in the next updates for Windows 8. That's a good thing for Microsoft to focus on, as this is a huge customer base that needs to move forward to the latest version of Windows.

See related: Windows XP and the Future of the Desktop

As big as the Windows XP installed base is, the Windows 7 segment is even larger. Microsoft wants to get this huge group moving forward to Windows 8, too. 

How to get these two massive segments onto Windows 8 is no doubt a major focus in Redmond. It not only impacts Microsoft's business but that of its partners, too.

All the major OEMs using Windows are madly producing hybrids and touch laptops running Windows 8, in an attempt to stem dropping PC sales. That's not a bad strategy, but for it to succeed a lot of the companies still running Windows XP and Windows 7 need to upgrade their infrastructure to Windows 8. If that happens it's a win-win for the OEMs and Microsoft.

That's the major test facing Microsoft with Windows. The mobile vs desktop confusion with Windows 8 does play a role in the hurdle Microsoft faces with Windows down the road, but it's relatively minor compared to getting existing customers to upgrade to Windows 8. It's hard to get new customers (mobile) when your existing ones don't buy your current products.

The redesign of Windows 8 to tackle the tablet market segment was probably an attempt to compete with Android and iOS. That's a legitimate effort, but oddly Microsoft's biggest competition for Windows 8 is its own earlier versions of its OS.

This big challenge Microsoft faces getting customers to upgrade to Windows 8 is a result of it's huge success in the past. Millions of customers are still happy using older versions of Windows because they are so darn good. Windows 8 is better but from their viewpoint only marginally so. The mobile vs desktop confusion in Windows 8 doesn't do much to help convince them to upgrade.

Topics: Mobility, Windows 8

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  • Strange Article

    "The biggest competition for Windows 8 is not the iPad nor Android tablets, it's Microsoft's older versions of Windows." That's a great problem to have. The author is also short sighted in the fact Windows 9, Windows 10 are sure to come and course correct if needed.
    Sean Foley
    • Not really . . .

      "That's a great problem to have."

      Not really - even though Windows 7 is better than XP in many ways, and will run on virtually any machine that already has XP, there's a lot of people still on XP. Why people won't go from XP to 7 is virtually inexplicable, and any future version of Windows will face the same problem.
      • To be clear

        Windows 7 will not run on all XP systems. The type of machine produced by Dell in 2001-2002 would have little hope of running it. I have a 2005 Dell box at home that won't even run it.
        • Specs?

          What are the specs of the system?

          To be honest, there's not a lot of machines anymore that are really on the very low end that wouldn't run Windows 7. We're talking Pentium 4 or below, and I doubt 30% of machines are running that low spec anymore, even for XP.

          Anything with a Core 2 or higher should be able to run Windows 7.
          • My previous employer...

            was runnig XP on Athlon XP and Pentium 4 machines with 256MB RAM when I joined them in 2009. I managed to get most of them up to 2GB RAM.

            The machines were so under specified, that the Norton Security on them had never actually done a scan of the drives and real-time checking was disabled! The previous admin knew that if he started a scan, the machines would be unusable for days...

            Needless to say, once I upgraded them and got them doing a scan over a weekend, it turned out around 70% were infected with viruses!

            The guy that replaced me managed to get some of the PCs replaced by refurbished Celeron machines...
          • Now THAT...

            is a cheap company. I can't imagine any of the employees enjoyed using those machines.
          • Penny wise and pound foolish ...

            Normal office computer (boxes) cost about $500 (NZ$).
            It costs a little over $1000 (NZ$) to make a desktop that goes like a rocket, e.g less than 20 second boot times to sign in and 5 seconds to Outlook collecting emails (in Windows 7). So fast that users do not wait for much at all. At a guess, this saves at least 10% of user time with the computer, certainly my experience. The other boon is thinking time is not so disturbed by having to wait - train of thought intact - estimated to be as much as 40% gain in productivity for knowledge workers.
            Now do the sums regarding how much that saves in labour every day at $20/hour = min $16/day, max $64/day, or payback between 16 and 62 days.
            These days it has to be a no-brainer to upgrade computers to a higher spec, it saves so much money.
          • It's the hardware drivers, not the native capability of older machines

            I've also been unable to upgrade older Dell machines because some drivers (particularly the video) have not been updated for Windows 7.
      • Why XP?

        Because I don't want to have to install all my dang applications again, that's why!

        I've got a media server that is going from XP to Win7 and I have to install every damn thing again.

        It's a royal pain in the #$%
        • Agreed

          In my case the release of 8.1 with no friendly upgrade, I own two OEM copy's of Windows 8 and it was hell trying to upgrade to 8.1, so just left my installations as is.
          • 8.1 upgrade is a charm

            I've upgraded so far 5 machines between my own and some friends' machines from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 without any problems, all previous programs and user files still present. It's as simple as clicking the tile in the Windows Store and waiting.

            The only annoying thing I find is MS forces you to use a Microsoft account when upgrading even if Windows 8 install was configured with a local account (you can revert back to local account after).

            Also annoying, Skydrive not working if not using a Microsoft account, couldn't it do like Skydrive did on Windows 8 and have it's own login when user is local account... I find that annoying forcing people to Microsoft accounts!
          • RE: 8.1 upgrade is a charm

            You can add your Microsoft Account to your system if you're using a local account so that Skydrive and their other stuff that requires that login still work. I use mine that way and it works very well. Plus the things that use the Microsoft Account to sync, do so across all my devices automatically.
          • No problems going from 8 to 8.1

            I have upgraded three notebooks and a tablet with no problem at all. Easiest upgrade ever, at least for Windows. Only issue maybe getting Chkdsk to fix drive problems, which can stop you even getting access to the upgrade via the store.
      • Who uses those XP systems?

        What often gets lost is that a large chunk of those XP systems ar enot enterprises, but rather people running bootleg versions. To upgrade they need to purchase a license, and if they didn't want to, or couldn't for XP.

        Windows after XP had more affective ways to ensure they are a legal copy. That can be a big problem for those who can't or won't buy a license. Which is another reason Microsoft wants XP to go away. And the number of systems in this group is probably as large or larger than those in the enterprise group.
      • Some things work in XP and not on 7

        I have several programs, all used for detecting an configuring network devices. All of this software works fine on Windows XP but because of the additional security built into Windows 7, it does not work. And running it in XP-compatibility-mode doesn't fix the problems either.
        • RE: Some things work in XP and not on 7

          If the software provider doesn't provide support for Windows 7, have you tried looking for alternatives that do? I use software of this sort as well on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.
      • Windows 8 has no Problem...

        running on a Core 2.

        CobraA1's point is valid.
      • inexplicable? really?

        The desire to SPEND NO MORE MONEY doesn't seem an obvious answer?

        Are there benefits to upgrading from XP to 7? Sure, but different people will value those benefits differently. Some XP holdouts are going to have to be hit by vulnerabilities before they'd consider upgrading.
      • Why people won't go from XP to 7 is virtually inexplicable

        Not really: In no particular order: cost, hardware compatibility, expertise, time, application migration/re-installation, application compatibility, inertia, "It ain't broke, why fix it"? and some others that didn't come to mind off hand.

        The actual order can vary from one person, or company, to another, but they are all quite real to those who are running XP. Unless you are prepared to personally provide the resources necessary to surmount them, come off your high horse and rejoin reality.
    • I've made the point the author makes a few times

      People keep talking about Linux this, Mac that - it is all irrelevant. Microsoft has one daunting competitor, one who can often keep pace and even better its current wares... and that competitor is the ghost of Microsoft past.

      It isn't a great problem to have.

      In the case of new Windows 7 sales, that means sales to people who are not getting the new entry point to Microsoft's app ecosystem.

      In the case of people refusing to upgrade because what they have is good enough, it means no sales at all.

      Those aren't great problems.