Five reasons why Windows 8 has failed

The numbers are in and they don't lie. Windows 8 market adoption numbers are well behind Microsoft's greatest previous operating system failure, Vista.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Windows fans will whine, but Net Applications' desktop operating systems numbers don't lie. Windows 8's pathetic user adoption numbers can't even keep up with Vista's lousy numbers.

Windows 8 usage can't even keep up with Vista/s poor numbers. (Data from Net Applications)

The numbers speak for themselves. Vista, universally acknowledged as a failure, actually had significantly better adoption numbers than Windows 8. At similar points in their roll-outs, Vista had a desktop market share of 4.52% compared to Windows 8's share of 2.67%. Underlining just how poorly Windows 8's adoption has gone, Vista didn't even have the advantage of holiday season sales to boost its numbers. Tablets--and not Surface RT tablets--were what people bought last December, not Windows 8 PCs.

Windows 8, and its relatives Windows Phone 8 and RT, make no impression at all in the smartphone and tablet markets. (Credit: Net Applications)

Windows 8's failure is actually greater than it appears. The tablet and phone markets in 2007 were next to non-existent. Now, in a market where NPD expects tablets to out sell notebooks by year's end, neither Windows 8 nor its cousins Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 even appear on NetApplication's mobile and tablet reports for February 2013. How bad is that? Android 1.6, with is tiny 0.02% of the market, does make the list.

I predicted that Windows 8 would be dead on arrival last year, but it's flopping even more  than I thought it would be. So, why has Windows 8 been such a failure? Here's my list:

1. Metro, aka Modern: An ugly, useless interface.

I said it before, I'll say it again: Metro, or whatever you want to call it, may make an OK tablet interface, but it's ugly and useless on the desktop. It requires users to forget everything they ever learned about Windows and learn an entirely new way of doing things for no real reason. To quote a popularly held opinion, Metro is "awful." 

True, you can use a more traditional Windows interface, but you know what would have been a lot better? If Microsoft had just kept  the Windows 7 Aero interface for the desktop version of Windows 8 and give up this idea that the Metro touch-friendly interface is for every device.

2. Windows 8 brought nothing innovative to the desktop.

Can you tell me one new thing that Windows 8 brought to the desktop that was truly innovative? Exciting? Engaging? I can't. Windows 8 is faster than Windows 7, but that's about it -- and that dual interface mess makes it slower for practical purposes.

3. Developers hate it.

I said all along programmers wouldn't like throwing out their hard-won .NET, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) expertise to work natively on Windows 8. I was right. Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of video game company Valve, said it best: "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." He then started moving his Steam game empire to Linux.

4. Legacy Windows 7 users aren't moving.

We saw this happen before with Vista and XP. Then, as now, the new operating system -- Vista -- was not  better than the old operating system -- XP -- so very few people moved to it. We're seeing it again now.

In addition, in an economy that's still not moving forward quickly, who really wants to move from tried-and-true Windows 7 to new, expensive Windows 8 PCs? As Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu observed, the $500 to $1200 price tags slapped on Windows 8 hardware makes it "uncompetitive" in a world where people want iPads and Android tablets. 

5. Tablet, smartphone, and desktop competition.

If you are going to buy a new computing device in 2013, chances are it's going to be an Apple iPad, an inexpensive Android tablet, or a Chromebook. The PC desktop isn't dead, but it's not very profitable either -- and Windows 8 isn't helping PC sales.

Microsoft has to know this. If Microsoft does indeed start selling, or rather renting, Microsoft Office for iPad, you'll know they've seen the light. Microsoft's future then will not lie in operating system and application sales, but in services.

And Windows 8? Like Vista before it, Microsoft will re-release an older version of Windows, Windows 7 this time instead of XP, and start talking about wonderful Windows Blue, the next version of Windows, will be.

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