Windows 8: The Verdict

I’ve recently posted some articles regarding my trial of Windows 8 Developer Edition. Before moving on to other topics, I’d like to wrap up this series of posts with some final thoughts on Windows 8 in particular and Microsoft in general.

Take your time with Windows 8

To make a long story short, if you already have Windows 7, there’s no hurry to upgrade to Windows 8. In my opinion, the interface as far more intuitive if you can use the touch capabilities than if you have a keyboard-mouse interface. That is no accident. If you have a device with touch screen capability, then it may well be worth braving the learning curve to upgrade from 7 to 8. I don’t, and I’m not. As long as the applications I need run under Windows 7, I’m sticking with it. Further, when the day comes that the applications I need don’t run under Windows 7, I’ll have other options available. This brings me to my comments on Microsoft in general.

Hoist by its own petard

I believe Microsoft has made a massive strategic error in its approach to the Windows 8 rollout and its handling of both the Internet and its own partners. The company seems bent on repeating its strategy from the last major change to Windows: the move from 3.x to 95 in the mid-1990s. The idea now, as it it was then, is to treat the rest of reality as if it doesn’t exist. Microsoft envisions a world in which there is no Web anymore, only the Windows App Store. They expect device makers upset by Microsoft’s move into hardware to put up with this encroachment, because, after all they’re Microsoft, and as far as operating systems go, they’re the only game in town.

Wrong. This is not 1995. When Microsoft introduced Windows 95, the Internet was just getting started, Apple was on deathwatch, “google” was baby talk, and “UNIX” was a pun in theĀ Dilbert comic strip. In 2013, Apple has just passed an era of tech domination not seen since Microsoft’s heyday. Google is anything but baby talk. Although UNIX never took off, its offshoot Linux should have given Microsoft a lot to think about. What’s more, business models have changed, and what worked for Microsoft then won’t work now.

The crowning irony in all of this is that Google is taking a page out of Microsoft’s own playbook, to potentially devastating effect. When Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer belatedly perceived the web browser as a threat, their solution was to give away their own browser as part of the operating system. This broke the business model of Netscape, which depended on license fees. Now, Google has taken this game to the next level. They’re giving away theĀ entire operating system. On top of that, the whole device is now a big browser, and much of what the PC used to do – storage, memory, and even some processing – happens in the cloud. This allows device makers that ship Chromebooks instead of Windows devices to price devices as low as $199 and still turn a profit. Some of those makers, feeling betrayed by Redmond’s entry into device hardware, are more than happy to do so.

End of an empire

To be sure, Microsoft has Office, but eventually hungry cloud-based office suite competitors like Zoho will cut into that business as well. You’re seeing the results of pressure on Microsoft in other areas, too, like the recent price drop on SQL Server Azure. Add it all up, and Microsoft’s own business model is now under strain. It’s far too early to predict the end of the line for Ballmer, et al, but it seems clear that Microsoft is now just another software company. It may survive and even thrive, but it will never be the empire it once was.

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