Windows 8 in Sweden: With friends like Microsoft, the OS doesn't need enemies

Windows 8 in Sweden: With friends like Microsoft, the OS doesn't need enemies

Summary: With its tablet enthusiasm, growing taste for Apple and history of early adoption in technology, Sweden could well be the perfect test for the latest generation of Windows hardware and software. So where's the love, Microsoft?

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Microsoft said it's got high hopes for Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets in Sweden – but the early signs aren't good.

Sweden may not be the world's biggest market but it's an interesting one, and one where the appeal, or otherwise, of the latest generation of Microsoft software and hardware will be writ large.

Windows 8
Will Sweden take to Windows 8 and RT?

The country is something of an early adopter when it comes to technology. One reason that 90 percent of Swedes have a PC today was its 'home PC reform' programme, which began in 1989 and was designed to improve computer literacy by pushing powerful and expensive PCs from the workplace into people's homes. Employees got a tax break for leasing PCs from their employers, which back then were more likely than not to be Windows PCs.

"That was many, many PCs sold to people that were employed," Thomas Floberg, Microsoft Sweden's business group lead for Windows, told ZDNet at the recent Nordic Windows 8 launch in Stockholm.

"That created a boom for PCs and that is part of the reason there is such a high PC penetration. It's not unique to Sweden but we were fairly early in that respect." 

The programme was canned in 2006 because the government no longer considered cost to be an obstacle to owning a decent PC. Clearly not: the smartphones of today are not short of computing power, while low-cost tablets are rife – and Swedes are enthusiastic adopters of both, with 51 percent of the country using a smartphone and 11 percent using a tablet.

"I have high expectations when you look at Windows 8 tablets" — Thomas Floberg, Microsoft Sweden's business group lead for Windows

Sweden's high rate of PC adoption has historically benefited Microsoft and gives the company's local executives hope that, along with the country's tablet take-up, Swedes will take to Windows 8 and its ARM-friendly offshoot, Windows RT.

"Something that is unique with the Sweden and the Nordics is that there is very high penetration of PCs and high adoption of tablets," Floberg said. "People have really bought a lot of PCs in the past and now they're moving to the tablet form factor and I have high expectations when you look at Windows 8 tablets." It's a similar picture for Windows RT tablets: "We have high expectations as well because [the Swedes] have been adopting other tablets," Floberg said.

Adopt other tablets they have: iPads have already taken 35-percent market share of the mobile device market, according to figures from Net Applications, while iPhones account for 42 percent, and the bulk of the remaining 20 percent are Android devices. Microsoft has practically nothing.

Apple is even eating into Microsoft's share of the desktop market in Sweden. Apple's OS X has just a seven-percent share of the desktop worldwide, but in Sweden, OS X (10.6 Snow Leopard to 10.8 Mountain Lion) runs 17 percent of the nation's desktops - well ahead of Vista, a smidgeon ahead of XP, but behind Windows 7's 53 percent.

For all its Microsoft legacy and tablet enthusiasm, Sweden will be no slouch to win over to Windows 8 and RT – and Microsoft doesn't appear to be putting huge effort into doing that.

Where's the hardware?

While Microsoft has launched its Windows 8 Metro-focused TV advertising campaign in Sweden, there's no hint of a release date yet for Surface RT or Pro in the country.

Microsoft has already released the Surface RT in some European countries, including Germany and the UK. While it makes sense for Microsoft to target its firepower at some of Europe's bigger markets, both Sweden's tablet uptake per capita is the same as the UK's and more than twice that of Germany - which has the lowest rate of tablet adoption in Europe.

It's down to other hardware makers to carry the RT standard in Sweden: Dell's Windows RT XPS 12 hybrid is available online, but in Swedish stores there's not much choice and the RT options are retail outlets are slim. 

According to staff at one large retailer in Uppsala near Stockholm I spoke with over the weekend, there's been no interest in Asus's attractive 64GB Vivo Tab. To its disadvantage, the Vivo sits on a table surrounded by a dozen Android tablets, separated from Apple's island of iPads. Making things worse, the Vivo is priced above Apple's 64GB Wi-Fi-only iPad with Retina display. 

Of course, this is just anecdotal evidence, and the current lack of Windows RT options makes it premature to say whether Microsoft's "high expectations" for Windows 8 and RT in Sweden are over-inflated, but it's hard to believe under these conditions that high rates of PC and tablet adoption will benefit Microsoft today. 

Microsoft may well be making a credible stab at keeping up with the move to touch-centric computing with Windows 8, RT and Surface, but without actually delivering it to those parts of the world where its share is most under threat, it would seem Microsoft is willing to cede yet more of the desktop and tablet market to the likes of Apple.

Topics: Microsoft, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Tablets, EU, Windows

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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30 comments
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  • MS lost its soul

    Another article here: Windows 8 UI 'strategic mistake,' argues design guru

    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9233884/Windows_8_UI_strategic_mistake_argues_design_guru?taxonomyId=15
    FADS_z
    • He said the same thing about the iPad

      I think it's pretty evident by now that Jakob Nielsen is promoting himself, and nothing more.

      He really sounds like he's stuck in the past, IMHO.
      William Farrel
      • His employment history is interesting

        He worked for Sun. And Sun IDE's and tools have a very pathetic User Experience always. That puts his comments at bay definitely. If someone is seriously considering his comments, (s)he must be either AHK or SJVN.
        Ram U
    • Look at Nielsen's own website

      ... and tell me how crappy it is designed. Exactly why this guy thinks he knows about design is puzzling.
      LBiege
      • LOL

        @"Design Guru".
        rex.reyesiii@...
  • Windows 8 in Sweden: With friends like Microsoft, the OS doesn't need enemi

    If Sweden is as tech savvy as you make it sound then there will be no problem getting them moved up to Microsoft Windows 8. Once the Microsoft Surface becomes available in that country you can expect it to sell out as it did here in the U.S. Imagine the use case it can make when the entire country goes to Microsoft Windows 8 and Surface tablets. Every other country will be taking notes and wanting to do the same. This is quite exciting and an excellent opportunity for them to be a leader. Sweden, show the world how its done with Microsoft Windows 8 and technology.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Loverock Davidson- are done compiling yet.........

      others are waiting in line

      Lovie they will never see a single Surface because of the lack of replacement key boards.
      Over and Out
      • Hi!

        Hello there!!!
        Loverock Davidson-
    • entire country move to Windows 8

      Is this Microsoft's pipe dream?

      Microsoft already has multi-year, multi-billion contracts with most European Governments to supply them with .. Windows. But, as you see, people in those countries continue to prefer other platforms. Not too long the Governments will reconsider their spendings, especially in these difficult economic times.

      But I am curious. Do you think Sweden is tech savvy, or not? For you have both opinions in your post :)
      danbi
  • Microsoft is looking more and more like the next RIM

    Appealing to the unwashed masses actually requires substance and lets face it, what they have been coming out with lately is junk. At this point Microsoft is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They need to do something extremely radical which would have been a lot easier in 2000 when they should have started transitioning the company to appeal to consumers.

    With really great products coming out since then it isn't taking much for consumers to realize Microsoft products are not that good. And now with the consumerization of the enterprise, including BYOB, it only compounds their problems.

    xBox may be the exception. Give THAT team more product design power...do something! We need Microsoft. Right now they are surviving only by their immense user base. Remove enterprise and commercial from that base and I believe the numbers would be pretty bad and getting worse.
    CowLauncher
    • Don't take this the wrong way

      but are you reading the same thing the rest of the world is?

      Look it's one thing if you're a "hater", we'll chalk it up to make believe, and we understand that to a point. Really, we do.

      But Windows 7 junk? Windows Server junk? Kinect junk? WP7 junk?

      Nothing but good things have been written about them from many of those that actually tried them. So I'm going with one of two options here - 1) you're typing just what you want to hear, or 2) you're getting your info from MacWorld.
      William Farrel
      • Win 8 points to a bigger problem

        I dont hate Microsoft. They have been and are an important company. But they need to wakeup. What would you do Will if you were in charge over there?

        I would spinoff the consumer part to a completely new company with new management and leadership and start from scratch. Let the parent company do what it does best.

        They will end up doing this one way or another at some point.
        CowLauncher
        • This is "my" game plan for Microsoft's future.

          Actually, Cowlauncher, you just gave me an idea so it is "our" plan. Grin.

          I agree that Microsoft, as a company, needs just a bit of pruning. Whatever divisions are sold off or "spun off", I leave to other folks.

          With the capital generated by those actions, I would make the marriage official and purchase or merge with Intel. I say for two reasons. Microsoft has crossed the Rubicon and has entered into the PC manufacturing business. MS started the Surface tablets and S. Ballmer more MS branded hardware is in the pipeline.

          The second reason is based upon an analysis that I just read. Samsung and Apple have switched to the ARM processor architecture for mobile (and more importantly) perhaps future desktop machines. This impacts Intel greatly and is one of the reasons Intel's Otellini was fired. The analysis states that whatever Intel does in the future, both Samsung and Apple won't be using Intel chips since those companies will be manufacturing their own chips for their mobile and perhaps desktop computers.

          Microsoft and Intel would present a formable new company with products that would be unique and world class.

          Just an opinion of mine. If it doesn't happen, no big deal but if I were on the board of either company, I would advocate a merger or a purchase by Microsoft for Intel.
          kenosha77a
          • I hate the fact ZDNet does not have editing capability yet.

            I wished to write that S. Ballmer indicated more MS branded computer hardware devices were scheduled for introduction in the future and that the Surface tablets were only the first products of Microsoft's new business model.

            (I don't know how that thought was so butchered by either the automatic grammer and spelling features but when I reviewed what was originally posted, even I cringed!)
            kenosha77a
          • Intriguing

            By Jove that could work! Then if they could just hire away Jonny Ive!

            I always thought that Sony could have been a contender. Great hardware, brand appeal, tons of content, nice design chops.
            CowLauncher
          • You know what would be a OS X bombshell development?

            What if Apple goes Linux?
            kenosha77a
          • Why should Apple go Linux

            Apple is already all UNIX shop - OS X, iOS are BSD UNIX based.

            Since BSD UNIX is architecturally superior to Linux, that makes no sense.

            This doesn't make Linux any less viable for specific applications. There are plenty of optimisations in Linux for certain tasks.
            danbi
          • I hope you're wrong about one thing

            Switching to ARM for OS X (other than potentially Macbook Airs) would be a horrible idea. By the time that ARM power meets the i-processors, the i-processors will have met the lower power use. Then we have the fact that a big upside is being able to run both OS X and Windows.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • I don't know if my Crystal ball is accurate or not.

            However, let's think about this. Apple has transformed themselves into primarily a mobile rather than a desktop computer company. Although the iMac, iMac Mini and Mac Pro line of computers are significant, when the quad core ARM designs come become feasible coupled to multi-core GPU subsystems, laptops can be powered with ARM processors without a noticeable loss of computational power.

            However, just having equality with Intel for CPU power specs is not enough. That ARM SoC needs to run desktop productivity apps. To cite just ONE example, if Adobe Photoshop can't run or Adobe will not port their software to ARM hardware, than those ARM based laptop machines would be too hamstrung to be commercially viable.

            On the other hand, if Apple supplies a "Rosetta" layer to run legacy x86 apps with acceptable performance levels, than the average consumer, like myself, would be satisfied having a laptop with twice the battery life than an Intel based laptop while running non-native ARM apps slightly slower than native x86 apps on Intel chipsets.
            kenosha77a
          • CPU architecture is irrelevant

            As is the conventional PC OS.

            There is a reason, why Apple moved to UNIX long ago. UNIX is architecturally designed to accommodate modularity and networking. BSD UNIX specifically, on which OS X is based is the platform that defined the Internet.. and still does.

            When you have UNIX environment, where particular piece of computing and communication happens do not really matter. CPU architecture matters even less. UNIX is highly portable.

            Not only is UNIX highly portable, but Apple's APIs are also one of the best defined. Apple is one of the very few companies that design software, that really understand what an "API" is supposed to mean.

            Since UNIX and Apple APIs are highly scalable, it is possible to migrate from the current Intel CPU architecture "few cores, at highest possible clock" that is designed to run legacy Windows apps best, to "lots of cores, at the most convenient clock", that can run the typical UNIX applications.

            In the case of Photoshop, if Adobe has ever written their software according to Apple APIs, then moving to ARM is just a matter of recompiling. Adobe software already makes use of as much CPU and GPU cores as you can provide - so it might even run better on ARM than on Intel.
            danbi