Windows: It's over

Windows: It's over

Summary: You can think Windows 8 will evolve into something better, but the numbers show that Windows is coming to a dead end.


Most people in our recent debate over the future of Windows 8 thought that the operating system could be saved. I'm sure many people in 1491 thought that the Earth was flat, too.

If Windows 8 continues the way it has been, it will be the end of Windows.

The very day the debate came to an end, this headline appeared: IDC: Global PC shipments plunge in worst drop in a generation. Sure, a lot of that was due to the growth of tablets and smartphones and the rise of the cloud, but Windows 8 gets to take a lot of the blame too. After all, the debate wasn't whether or not Windows 8 was any good. It's not. The debate was over whether it could be saved. 

Indeed even Microsoft defenders are no longer talking about Windows 8 in terms of a stand-alone project but instead they're spinning it as Windows 8 being "more like a living organism, made partly from familiar bits that have evolved over the last two decades, with several new strands of DNA tossed in. It’s due to be updated for more often, and it’s part of a much larger hardware-apps-services ecosystem that is also changing quickly."

Please. Changing too fast for the user-base was what turned many former Windows fans into Windows 8 haters. Some people think I've put too much emphasis on Windows 8's dismal Metro interface for why Windows 8 has failed. I don't think so. This isn't a matter of judging a book by its cover; the user interface (UI) is everything for computer users. If the UI alienates users, you lose them. It's as simple as that.

My comrade pointed out that I declared Vista dead six years ago, but that the Aero interface, which I like, started there. True, but that wasn't the point. I was right. Vista did die. Microsoft had to bring back XP to stop users from fleeing to Linux on netbooks.

Now, Microsoft could revive Windows 7 sales, or make Aero Windows 8.x's interface, but from everything we can see about Windows 8.1, aka Blue, that's not what they're doing. Instead, Microsoft seems to be doubling down on Metro.


You think the least they could do is give users a choice between a real Aero interface and Metro, but no, they won't do that. I don't know what it is, but lately, UI "experts" seem to want to create interfaces that only appeal to their builders and not to any of their users. It's not just Microsoft with Aero. In Linux, GNOME made similar blunders with its 3.x line and many former Ubuntu Linux users think Canonical went on the wrong track with Unity.

Yes, we are entering a post-PC world. Tablets and smartphones are becoming more important... to sales. PCs are no more going to go away than mainframes did. We're still going to be using them in offices and homes for the foreseeable future. They let us easily do things that we need to do every day that we can't easily do with a tablet or a phone.

Perhaps most of our computing will move to the cloud, but you know what device we'll still be using for most of our interactions? It will be a PC, simply because it's easier to enter data with a real keyboard than any other interface.

True, it would be great if you could use one operating system for your PC, tablet, and smartphone. Besides Microsoft with Windows 8.x, Canonical with UbuntuMozilla with Firefox OS, and Google with Android/Chrome are all making similar bets.

But I don't think that's essential. I think Microsoft could continue to dominate the important, but no longer growing, desktop market for years, even decades to come. However, I don't think they will.

It looks like Microsoft is betting all its chips on the silly notion that Metro will be the one true interface for its entire PC and device line. There's only one little problem with this idea. Sorry, but I have to say it again, look at the numbers: Metro-interface operating systems have already failed.

Fewer people than with any previous edition of Windows want Windows 8. Vista actually looks successful when you compare it to Windows 8! As for tablets and smartphones, I think my ComputerWorld colleague Preston Gralla summed it up nicely in his analysis of ABI Research's report on 2013's tablet market: "Windows tablets don't even rate a blip in the $64 billion tablet market."

So, what do the numbers show? Not what do you want them to show, and not what would your faith in Microsoft would have you believe, but what do they actually add up to? The sum is that Microsoft is failing to hold on to the desktop market and that it has no impact whatsoever on smartphones and tablets.

Windows 8 may not just be a failure in and of itself. Unless Microsoft changes course, this may be the end of the Windows domination period in end-using computing. Indeed, some major financial firms, such as Goldman Sachs and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), already believe that Windows has crested and that it's all downhill from here.

Related Stories:

Topics: Windows 8, Windows, PCs, Ubuntu, Tablets, Smartphones, Operating Systems, Microsoft, Linux, Cloud

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
  • clickbait

    Sorry, this article is nothing but clickbait. This sort of prediction is way too premature, and the author doesn't even pretend to be balanced. Nothing to see here, move along.
    • He meant to say "Linux: It's over".

      Since everyone has posted a chart showing that Windows 8 alreay passed Linux.

      But it's not meant to be truthful, just geared towards his faithful followers that will always post that he is "100% dead on".

      Like the UFO believers - it doesn't matter if the author believes what he writes, as long as the paying believers do. ;)
      William Farrel
      • Actually, by his logic, both should be done - on the desktop

        Yes, this was nothing but click bait, but - - -

        By Steven's logic, Linux on the desktop is also done. Yes, Linux has the Super Computer market, all 500 or so computers world wide, yes, Linux is a player in the server market as is Windows, but that's not what we are talking about here.

        Even with the downturn in PC sales, predicting the demise of Windows is more than a bit premature. Tablets still can't replace the proverbial desktop yet.

        I do agree, on the product maturity curve, Windows is a VERY MATURE product, but even mature products can last for generations before disappearing from the markets. Windows has a decade or two left at present.

        As usual, Steven's vain attempt at journalism fails, yet again.
        • Diminishing returns

          Actually Microsoft has a history of abandoning products and angering customers, such as Microsoft Money which beat the pants of Quicken.

          Not to say that Microsoft would abandon Windows anywhere in the near future but they do tend to vear away from a product once the revenue stream begins to wane - no matter how good it is.
          • re: MS Money

            Oh, man. I miss Money every time I use Quicken. I am so sick of having to comb through my accounts looking for and eliminating duplicated transactions that Quicken keeps downloading. The whole reason I started using Money in the first place was because I got tired of dealing with the same Quicken bugs release after release. After happily using Money for years and being forced back to Quicken, I see that some things never change.
            Sir Name
          • re: MS Money

            I'm still using MS Money Sunset on my Windows 8 Pro... Actually I was using Money 2004 and then upgraded to Sunset on my Windows 8. Loathed Quicken.
          • MS Money Sunset FREE version - search the Internet and yee shall find.

            I'm with Draclvr. I still use MS Money as well. Many banks still offer MS Money downloads to the program. My credit union, Chase, US Bank, and American Express all do. Sadly, I have to manually input data from Bank of America.

            The only thing you can't do are automatic data transfers from your bank from within MS Money; you have to go to your bank website and do their download to MS Money while it is open - all 'new' transactions will transfer for most banks (just not BoA).

            The reason my credit union still offers MS Money downloads is because the app they require from Microsoft to make it possible is free to them (and has always been free); however, they don't offer Quicken downloads because Intuit charges financial institutions to use their application, and it would not be cost effective for them.

            If you are still interested in using MS Money Sunset version (the same as last version) then do a search on the Internet. You will be able to install it onto what ever Windows version you are using. I'm currently using Windows 8 Pro.

            Have you tried Like Quicken, it's also by Intuit, except it's free and works very well.
          • I do agree...

            ...and besides...

            Tablet market share Q1 2013 by IDC:

            Windows RT..................0.4%
            Others............................ 0.2%

            Looks like world is moving from Windows to Linux. It's a great move indeed.
          • try quick books

            try using quick books before 2013 in windows 7, they admit they have problems and it sure screwed up my account group accounts
          • better accounting

            I use Xero
            much better than oldtimer accounts/cash software
          • Actually, I will admit:

            I do regret Microsoft's decision to kill off Microsoft Works. I actually used to prefer that over Office.
            Richard Estes
          • You miss Works?

            Are we talking about the same Microsoft Works that was considered an oxymoron by most people in the industry? Personally, I'll take Office any day. The later versions of office are user-friendly but very powerful and have the ability to create a PDF without going to a third party program. (Yes, I know that the OpenOffice-based programs do that too. And the comfort of menu buttons, for some people, will always beat the Ribbon. However, this was a comparison between Office and Works.) I also appreciate the current versions Office in a business environment. The addition of Lync to applications like Outlook and the integration of communication and collaboration technology makes for a very powerful program. Admittedly, that might be a bit much for a home user that only uses the suite occasionally (and doesn't have a Lync server to work with). Still, business needs require more powerful solutions and, say what you will about Office, the developers for the programs have not sat on their hands in finding ways to make it more advanced. (One can argue if their changes are better but at least they attempt to meet the needs of the business landscape.)

            Works deserved its death. It tried to be an Office-Lite but didn't deliver. When there are free programs almost as powerful as Office, why should Microsoft spend the money developing an inferior version of their flagship suite?
          • Miss Works??? OMFG!!!

            Seriously dude... admitting you miss Works is like admitting you miss watching your sister in the shower. Please!
          • Very stupid analogy.

            So missing MS Works makes you an inbreeding pervert? That is the worst and most awkwardly stupid analogy I've seen here. Congratulations.
          • Serious problem for business Windows

            The operating system might have bugs. Of interest are bugs in the Windows API that allow the bypass of the regular security checks. If such a bug exists, malware will be able to bypass the sandbox restrictions and broker policy and possibly compromise the computer. Under Windows, there is no practical way to prevent code in the sandbox from calling a system service.
            In addition, third party software, particularly anti-malware solutions, can create new attack vectors. The most troublesome are applications that inject dlls in order to enable some (usually unwanted) capability. These dlls will also get injected in the sandbox process. In the best case they will malfunction, and in the worst case can create backdoors to other processes or to the file system itself, enabling specially crafted malware to escape the sandbox.
          • Sunsetted Products

            Man, I miss MS money too it was a great product. I miss Visual FoxPro also I loved that database development system.
          • I don't miss Visual Foxpro

            since I have it but I do miss no more upgrades.
          • I doubt it.

            Windows isn't going anywhere. The various versions of Windows still hold on to around 90% of the market. Win 8 might not be lighting up the shelves but no new product is going phenomenally right now. The iPad Mini is canaballizing sales of the full-sized iPad. Does that mean that the iPad is going away? Of course not (or, at least, not in the near future).
          • Holding on by People's Ignorance

            Sorry to say but Microsoft is only holding on by people's ignorance. That will change though with tablets and other devices fulling people to other operating systems, like Ubuntu or Apple.

            Face it, the Surface RT and Pro, the Nokia Phones, are really awful, and Windows 8 is a disaster. Microsoft needed these products to cut into the tablet and phone market but they have failed which means they don't have a place in the future.

            Microsoft is also competing against companies offering free software and services, using open source models. Example Google and greater Linux offerings. Microsoft's high licensing fees and restrictive policies are now seen as ridiculous and out of date.