With each update to Windows 8, Microsoft is making it closer to its predecessor, Windows 7. First the improved Start menu and now there are rumors you may be able boot directly to the desktop and minimize Metro apps. Is it too late for Microsoft to salvage Windows 8?
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Windows 8: Vista of the 2010’s
Everyone loved XP. The move from Windows 2000 to XP was great – XP was a modern system – it felt fresh. It felt streamlined and it felt like Microsoft knew what its customers wanted. XP was a bit of a security Swiss-cheese but that’s a different story. After years of success and much love, XP’s little brother Vista was released.
Vista was too newfangled for most people. The Start menu looked drastically different, bugs were abundant, the OS seemed slow and people avoided Vista in droves. Microsoft kept selling XP like gangbusters but went back to work on the next OS.
Windows 7 came along and fixed most of what was wrong with Vista. People got used to the new Start menu and the bugs were cleaned up nicely. People loved Windows 7. In fact, it’ still the most popular OS in the world. Microsoft went to town with Windows 7 sales and then released Windows 8.
What is it about Microsoft that people can thoroughly enjoy one operating system but vocally deride the next?
It’s what I like to refer to as Microsoft’s Dilemma.
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Microsoft is stuck in the middle of a three-way vice grip. On one side, Microsoft has customers. Lots of them. Those customers want a stable, user friendly operating system that just works and doesn’t interfere with what they want to accomplish.
On the other side is the need to innovate. If you keep giving customers the same thing over and over again, your sales are going to go down the tube. Microsoft needs to continually innovate and improve their products to keep customers coming back.
If it was simply a matter of innovating to keep customers happy that would be one thing, but the third side of Microsoft’s dilemma is competitors. Back in the XP days, there was no such thing as tablets or smart phones for Microsoft to worry about. People had PCs, and Microsoft was king of the PC.
Today, Microsoft has to compete with PCs and the other innovative gadgets everyone has including tablets and smart phones. Instead of giving users different operating systems as they did in the past, Microsoft wanted to unify its OS to operate on any device.
Microsoft’s dilemma was to figure out how to simultaneously innovate, in order to keep customers coming back for more while also improving its OS to support the new devices, in order to compete with Apple and Android, all without alienating the people who made Microsoft a success.
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On the Road to Recovery?
Unfortunately, Microsoft forgot about its loyal customers who just wanted a decent desktop or laptop OS. Windows 8 succeeded in that it could be run on mobile (touch) devices, but in the process Microsoft shoved the traditional PC user interface to the back of the bus.
After dismal sales, Microsoft is recognizing the error of its ways and is slowly bringing back desktop-friendly features that users expect, such as the ability to minimize apps, an improved Start menu and the ability to start the computer in Desktop mode instead of Metro. With each successive update, Microsoft is improving Windows 8. It may be too late to turn around the sinking (or sunk) Windows 8 “ship," but if the past is any indicator of the future, Microsoft will probably get Windows 9 right.
My guess for Windows 9 –which Microsoft is already working on—is that it will follow previous patterns, listening to what customer dislike about Windows 8 and focusing on those features. Microsoft will keep the Metro UI, but will ensure desktop users can have the full experience they expect.
If Windows 8 is the Vista of the 2010s, Windows 9 should be well loved like Windows 7 was… Right?