By Woody Leonhard/Windows Secrets Newsletter
If you download and install Windows 8 Consumer Preview, released late last week, I can almost guarantee that you won’t like it.
I know only a handful of experienced Windows users (who don’t work for or with Microsoft) who say they like Windows 8. But it’s the future, eh?
Microsoft is not building Windows 8 for the garden-variety Windows expert. You and I aren’t being ignored, exactly, but we’re not at the top of the Win8 food chain. As perplexing as it might sound, aiming Windows 8 at a different demographic is probably a good decision. But it still might lead to Windows’ demise.
There’s a good reason why Microsoft is cutting us old salts loose. Money. We aren’t generating enough revenue, and the future looks grim indeed. Microsoft made its basic decisions about moving to a touch-centric world three years ago. That’s before the first iPad was released. Since then, the market has proven Steve Sinofsky right: Microsoft’s traditional PC market has sunk into a funk, and mountains of iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks are rising in its place.
Sales of PCs in the U.S. fell steeply in the fourth quarter last year, compared to one year before. In the U.S., Windows mostly comes preinstalled on new PCs, so any decline in hardware sales is a hit on Microsoft’s revenues, too. PC sales in China soared, but as I reported in a June 2011 AskWoody.com post, only five percent or so of new PCs in China ship with Windows. Bottom line: Windows revenue dropped, and it’s likely to drop again — and again.
At the same time, the iPad rolled over the market like a tank — there were more iPads sold in the fourth quarter of 2011 than desktop computers, for heaven’s sake. Nobody predicted that. But Microsoft had enough of a premonition three years ago to start building a radically different kind of Windows, one more attuned to tablets and fingers and less dependent on mice and keyboards.
As things stand, by the time Windows 8 hits the shelves, Apple will have a two-and-a-half-year lead in that part of the market — let’s not mince words — in the iPad part of the market. Can Microsoft catch up? More to the point, can Microsoft catch up without alienating us billion-plus Windows users — especially the ones other consumers look to for advice?
This post is excerpted with permission from Windows Secrets.