Monday, January 13, 2014

9 comes after 8 and that's Windows' new name

Leo Laporte may have officially proclaimed the death of Windows 8 last year but Microsoft made it official this week.  The operating system previously known as "Threshold" has a real name, "Windows 9" and a real release target, April 2015.

According to Paul Thurrott, Windows 9 is meant to be everything Windows 8 wasn't.  For one thing, the desktop will regain its prominence as will the Start Menu.  Metro 2.0, as it's called, will be somewhat deprecated as more of a windowed app instead of a GUI mandate.

The bones have been rolled and the Shaman was right, Windows 8 couldn't succeed in spite of its futuristic aspirations.  It's not that Windows 8 is a flawed operating system, it's not and its performance and security underpinnings are second to none in the Windows world.  But that GUI...That collection of pulsating tiles that consumers were forced to swipe away just to get to their email spelled doom for the Windows known as 8.

Metro isn't a bad idea and I still hold firm to the belief that one day we'll see a workforce happily swiping, typing and talking to their monitors as easily as they send a text message now.  I get it Microsoft.  You were trying to push the concept of a Kiosk operating system that was not only visually attractive but with all those annoying menu bits out of the way. 

Microsoft saw how consumers eschewed scrolling down menus and tiny keyboards on their smart devices for simple taps and swipes.  The proof still exists with the success of Apple and Android devices while Blackberry languishes for all but the most faithful.

But it didn't translate well to the office.  With a stated 25 million copies sold with most of those likely pre-installs on new PC's (whose sales numbers were already suffering,)  Windows 8 just wasn't going to fly with the bean counters.

Incompatibility with legacy applications, an interface inconsistent with current workflows and no real justification to move from windows 7.  When you consider that many businesses are still just in the throes of moving off of XP, the  picture becomes clear.

Windows 8 was an operating system ahead of its time if not its market.  Consumers may be used to scratching and tapping away at their smart devices but not their PC's.  They still expect that "legacy" experience and that translates to corporate America as well. 

That's why 8 failed, If the Fortune 1000 isn't buying it, you just have to call a Microsoft operating system dead. 

Windows 9 is a pullback from the brink.  Still, in the long run the great experiment will cost them little.  There was no upstart, no competition waiting in the wings to unseat the giant from its throne.  Apple? the enterprise is more nuisance than market to them.  Expect OSX to disappear into an API for IOS within the next 10 years.  Linux?  If corporate customers won't tolerate a tightly integrated kiosk experience they won't stomach the wild West of an open source operating system either. 

At this point the best thing Microsoft could do to advance Windows is to split the development  between consumer and business releases again.  If you want one interface across all "consumer" devices then by all means do it.  Let it grace the likes of phones, tablets and yes, consumer PC's.  Just don't try to force it down corporate America's throat.

People don't like to be forced to do anything.  They need time to get used to it.  Windows 95 brought the desktop to the next step in its evolution.  It was more about clicks than menus and command lines.  Consumers got used to that and were soon demanding the same from their business PC's.  Thus came Windows 2000 which was really just windows NT with a facelift and some beefier networking bits. 

It was all about the interface and customers both corporate and consumer asked for it.  

That's the key, consumers have to feel like it's their choice.  If they want to be told what's good for them they'll buy an IPAD.  
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