In all the talk about the never-ending debut of Windows 8—and there has been a veritable tidal wave of verbiage—there have been a few references to the inauspicious debut of New Coke in 1985. Last year, Microsoft tied a much-changed Windows 8 to its new Surface devices, wagering that a ton of marketing hoopla would establish them as competitors to our iPad rental. But the public isn’t buying it (or them). At the point in the New Coke story where the public made its preferences known, Coca-Cola did the right thing, right away. It brought the favored flavor back as “Classic Coke” while “unhitching the wagon” from the newfangled, widely detested recipe. Subsequent years saw huge sales increases for the firm.
The Coca-Cola chairman and CEO at the time, Roberto Goizueta, recounted the company’s New Coke maneuvers in a 1995 interview, declaring that company execs “really were ready to do whatever was necessary” to make things right. In Microsoft’s case, instead of acknowledging the problems, execs are doubling down on Metro. Many tech bloggers are ready to dump the “new, unimproved” Metro look in favor of getting Windows 7′s Aero UI back, or some of it, anyway. The question rang out on ZDNet: “Does [Microsoft chief Steve] Ballmer have the guts to admit he made a mistake and give users what they clearly want?” It’s a mystery, but there are a few clues, so let’s do some sleuthing…
Windows 8 and Windows RT sales
NetMarketShare regularly reports worldwide tech statistics, and the latest news about Windows 8 and Windows RT is not good at all. How “not good” is it? In April 2013′s report on OS use, Windows 8 was at a meager 3.82%, which means Windows 8 still lags behind Microsoft’s last OS failure, Vista, after about nine months on the market. Tablet PCs and other touchscreen devices with Windows 8 and Windows RT totaled 0.02% and 0.00%, respectively—and you read that last figure right. The launch of the Surface RT is probably the worst in Microsoft history.
The release of Windows 8.1 sometime next month will, according to top tech writer Mary Jo Foley, mark the return of the “lost” Start button, as well as an Aero-influenced UI. In a recent ZDNet debate, it was determined by a wide majority that Windows 8 had already failed, and the only remaining question was whether or not it could be saved. Now, there will always be the need for the desktop PC and general-purpose computer rental, so they’re not going away. So the next question is: Will Microsoft keep doubling down on Metro?
The future comes a day at a time
Sure, we’re moving into a new era, a “post-PC” future, with tablets and smartphones becoming more powerful, more necessary, more intimately integrated into our lives. Desktop PCs are not going away because of this, any more than mainframes disappeared when PCs debuted—because we regularly do any number of things that require an iMac or an HP Pavilion, things that can’t be done that easily with an Android tablet or an iPhone. Furthermore, even if it’s true that much of our computing (and even more of our storage) will be cloud-based, using a keyboard is still the easiest way for human beings to enter data besides dictation. (Think you can dictate an Excel spreadsheet?)
Windows 8 represents a colossal failure, and not just because of its bad design. If Microsoft stays the course it appears to have set—“appears” because so much is unknown, misunderstood, deceptive—it could be the end of Windows’ dominance in end-user computing. Such Wall Street denizens as KPCB (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) and Goldman Sachs are on record stating that Windows market share has peaked. From here on, they imply, it’s downhill all the way to the dustbin of history. All we can tell you for certain is that we’ll keep you posted!
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