Windows is in trouble because people simply don’t care about it anymore. It’s not outright hostility; It’s ambivalence. It’s ambivalence driven by the nature of “good enough” mobile and web apps. It’s ambivalence driven by the allure of
anytime/anywhere computing on tiny devices that are more cool to use and even cooler to be seen using.
A few hours ago Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott wrote a piece for Windows IT Pro that I think really summarizes one of the big issues facing Microsoft and in particular Windows as an operating system. Ambivalence.
There has always been a sense that Windows was and is “Just there” like paint. The spread of PCs makes Windows white noise in comparison to Macs with their aluminum casing and glowing Apple logo. It has a scarcity that is missing when one has 95% of the market.
In all the complaining and arguing over Windows 8, one thing that has become clear to me is that in order for the platform to be viable Windows needs to be revalued. It needs to become mobile and to be on these new form factors to maintain a foot in the race. But saying that doesn’t mean Microsoft will succeed or that it will cease any form of relevancy in technology circles. What can happen is what I believe happened to Linux which is to say it won its battles and its reward was a piece of land surrounded by Windows and Mac with them in a digital reservation cut off.
That digital reservation has room for Microsoft. Its a place where Microsoft maintains a foothold on desktops and in enterprise but its role will go no further. Off site workers will remote in using Macs and iPads or Android devices. It will sit in the cloud being accessed by Citrix. It will be an environment in a box pulled out to get work done.
I think that vision is why Steve Ballmer pushed Microsoft into the direction of Devices and Services and why Windows 8 was pushed. The place where Microsoft could go is a place where it would be profitable but stagnant; widely used but barely visible; of importance to a niche and not the masses.