Windows 8 has a tough road to follow.  The operating system is set to make the biggest interface redesign and user experience changes since the early days of Windows 95.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer describes Windows 8 as the “deepest, broadest and most impactful” operating system the company has made to date. Ballmer also predicts that the OS will be in use on 500 million systems by 2013.  Despite these promises and predictions most business analysis are left asking, “Who asked for the operating system in the first place?”

Windows 8 Metro Interface

For those who are unfamiliar with the new OS, Windows 8 was designed first with Tablets and mobile PC’s in mind.  The operating system has been built with full touchscreen compatibility and the customary Windows interface has been replaced with Metro.  Metro is a user interface that makes use of colorful, box based designs for applications that can either run as a small tile or as full screen.  Had Microsoft left Windows 8 solely to mobile platforms they might have been able to present the OS as innovative.  However, the move to promote the OS as a Windows 7 successor presents problems.

The Problems

  • Cloud OS
    Google has made a name for itself with innovative, easy to use and cheap (or free!) applications.  While Chrome Books, Google’s proprietary notebooks, haven’t exactly been flying off shelves Google APPs has built a strong foothold for itself.  The ability to use all office and productivity software from one place regardless of hardware, operating system or location is incredibly appealing to most business users.
  • Windows XP
    Despite discontinued support and the insistence of system technicians everywhere that upgrading is a must, Windows XP still holds onto almost half of the PC market.  Despite the availability of Windows 7 it has only been in the last three months that Windows 7 overtook XP as the dominant Windows OS.  Many users and companies think, “If it’s not broke, why fix it?” and for many the decade old OS still isn’t broken.
  • Windows 7
    Microsoft’s biggest competitor in the operating system arena is always going to be itself.  Windows 7 is already in the perfect position from both a technical and usability standpoint.  It has the familiarity and compatibility of XP plus the security and support that XP lacks.  Also, as stated above most businesses are only just getting to Windows 7.   Not enough time has passed to warrant an upgrade when Windows 7 is still new in most people’s minds.
  • Metro
    Metro is an oversimplified version of an interface that has worked perfectly for over a decade.  Businesses will not want to waste time and money to train their staff in a new using their computer when the old method works fine.  While Microsoft has insisted that Metro is optional it will be on by default and will only serve to confuse users.

Windows 8 will be a hard sell when it releases later this year.  The people it is made for already have access to other more trusted solutions and those it isn’t made for won’t see much reason to upgrade.  With all likelihood I would expect when Windows 9 in announced in a few years it will have a lot more in common with 7 than 8.

– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Design and Optimization Department