This is Going to Hurt

I was reading this post by Onuora  Amobi about a Gartner analyst’s review on Windows 8 and the reception it got. The Gartner analyst review, which appeared on his personal site was about Windows 8 on the desktop. His summary was that Windows 8 was bad to use with a mouse and keyboard. Now if you did a search with the words Gartner and Windows 8 you would run across his post or at least part of it and the title is, “Gartner Analyst says Windows 8 is Bad”.

Now this is not about that, well not all about it.

There has been a lot of hand wringing, confusion, and outright anger where Windows 8 is concerned. Some of it has been justified  and others are really matters of opinion. Over the past year in articles, blogs, and the occasional video people have argued the validity of Microsoft’s design and roll out of Windows 8 and Windows RT; much of it revolving around the desktop and sometimes what it means for business.

I’ve watched and read how developers have complained about the death of Silverlight, dealt with the thinking about tablet applications, and just general confusion about the whole thing. I’ve read the articles where writers implore Microsoft to separate Metro from the desktop or use Windows Phone for tablets. I’ve also read the articles where writers and bloggers declare that Windows 8 made them switch to a Mac or Linux or stay on Windows 7. I’ve seen the post where Windows 8 is declared a failure or is nice but wait for Windows 9.

And it’s all been interesting and kind of illuminating. This Operating System which people have declared dead more times than I can imagine has been much fought over this year. But sometimes I think everyone misses the bigger picture.

In a perfect world Windows 8 would be exactly how people expect Windows to be, a steady progression from Windows 7. They would’ve slowly introduced Metro and you could turn it on and off as you want. And Microsoft would push Windows CE tablets or Windows Phone based ones (or Couriers). And they wouldn’t have to rush.

Now that was a nice place but let’s be honest that’s a dream world.

The reality is Microsoft did it that way before, it was halfhearted, but it was done. And it didn’t get them anywhere. Now the computer market is shifting, tastes are shifting; and if Microsoft wants to be a factor in that market it going to have to create a product that fits it.

And that is what Windows 8 is. Its a product to meet the demand of the current and future Consumer market; not businesses. Windows 8 and RT are about competing in a market where the iPad is a market leader which is why its designed for mobility and not sitting at a desktop. Windows 8 was built around new hardware and new inputs; touch and track pads. To think about it anyway in the traditional sense will make you mad.

Now Windows 8 is not desktop friendly, not in the way Windows has been in the past. You can’t avoid the new start screen or Metro. That was tried in the UMPC days when we had the Origami experience (which no one built for). And the reason why is that they can’t afford for users or developers not to. Its the reason, in my opinion, they didn’t use Windows Phone; a developer could just ignore it or hold out till they got paid to port an app.

Microsoft remains the biggest software company in the world, but that won’t matter if its base shrinks. Relying on businesses is lucrative but it comes at the cost of slow adoption. If you have read or watched any talking head out of Microsoft since the launch of Windows 8, you won’t hear them say that a business should migrate to it. Because those companies are moving to Windows 7. Any business adoption story about Windows 8 or Windows RT will be in the same use cases as the adoption of iPads and Androids in the market . Apple doesn’t have to kill Windows or Microsoft, all they really need to do is box them into the corporate space. Android, for all intents, has taken Windows place as the ubiquitous platform (at least in mobile). Everyday that the iPad can make a case for its use instead of a Windows device is another reason for Windows 8’s existence.  And that is another reason Windows 8 is coming the way it is.

I’m not going to say Windows 8 is right or that its perfect, only that this is the plan. And as much as a last minute alternative is appealing; Microsoft flip flopping would not go down well. So the only thing you or I can do is to walk into this with open eyes


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