Windows 8 fails to set world alight

December 23, 2012

Windows 8 has got off to a slower than expected start, at least according to the industry people and analysts willing to talk about the initial response to Microsoft’s latest operating system.

Microsoft released Windows 8 to a muted response at the end of October. Since then there have been at least 40 million Windows 8 upgrades, but many experts are now suggesting Windows 8 has been a bit of a failure to this point.

The New York Times quotes Emmanuel Fromont, president of the Americas division of Acer, as saying, “It’s a slow start, there’s no question,” and Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD, as saying, “I think everybody would have hoped for a better start.” The words “shaky” and “tepid” also appear in the report.

What’s to blame for this bad start? A combination of people buying tablets, and people holding off on upgrading their computers, pushing the replacement cycle from four years to five years.

In a strange kind of way the initial reaction to Windows, and the reasons behind it, offer a glimmer of hope for Microsoft. If the reason sales have been slow is because more people are buying tablets rather than laptops, then it suggests Microsoft made the right call in switching to an OS that catered for both these markets.

Had it continued on catering solely to the computer market then perhaps Windows 8 would have had an even less thrilling beginning. Certainly Microsoft would have come in for criticism from the haters suggesting that it was stuck in the past and unwilling to embrace mobile devices in the way its arch-nemesis Apple has.

There is also optimism surrounding Windows 8 in 2013 and beyond. Bill Calder, a spokesman for Intel, suggests that the company is “excited about the prospects” thanks to the Windows 8 devices due to be released over the next 12 months. Which includes the Microsoft Surface Pro, the branded tablet carrying the full version of the operating system.

I suspect it’s too early to tell how Windows 8 is going to do in the longterm, but Microsoft needed to change course or risk being left behind forever. Windows 8 was a gamble, granted, but a gamble that had to be taken.

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