Has Windows 8 Closed Microsoft's Window of Opportunity?
It has been two months since the launch of what Microsoft hoped would be its new flagship operating system, Windows 8 - a move CEO Steve Ballmer considers one of the top three events in the company's history. The jury, however, still seems to be out on whether that ship has sailed successfully or has sunk before it even left the harbor.
As reported by CIO, the main issue with this particular Windows incarnation is that it was specifically developed to be a touch interface. While desktop and laptop users can still point and click with a mouse or keyboard, the "live tile" design was built with total integration between smartphone, tablet, and notebook in mind. For midsize businesses, the majority of which still run on all flavors of Windows, this concept of synergistic devices, combined with Microsoft's largely cloud-based server system, seems like a dream come true in a mobile, BYOD world.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, they may have launched Windows 8 too late to get any kind of real grasp on the multiple integrated device market. Despite their slick adverts and flashy appeal, this total integration concept has not only already been thriving in the wild for years, it is also being revised and improved on a regular basis by rival corporations. At present, Windows phones make up less than 3 percent of overall smartphone sales, with only a projected 11 percent being forecast for sales futures in the next three years. Even the snazzy new Surface, which functions as a sort of tablet-laptop hybrid, was at the bottom of the holiday gadget sales pile. What's more, the desktop version of new Microsoft OS is still, by many accounts, rather "glitchy," and performance tends to vary based on the brand of machine on which it is installed.
Weighing the Options
For midsize businesses, the move to Windows 8 requires a bit of consideration. While the latest OS is certainly no Vista, it is also still in its very early stage. For one thing, a change to an operating system that was designed to run on mobile devices might mean that desktop support and upgrades may not be as much of a priority as for previous versions. It definitely means employees will have to learn to use the operating system, at least to an extent, since it has been entirely redesigned. That could cut into IT resources.
Then again, that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if midsize enterprises decide to incorporate the mostly mobile operating system as part of their plan to increase mobility. Reportedly, once you learn to use the applications on one device, you are set across the board.
On the other hand, how firmly - and for how long - will Microsoft stand behind a product that is likely to lag in the market race for some time? Will the Redmond software giant cut and run if sales don't meet their projections? And if so, what will that mean for midsize businesses and other consumers who signed on to Windows 8 for the long haul?
Of course, Microsoft is not likely to simply abandon a system it considers one of the top three products of its industry life, even under a certain amount of economic pressure. Upgrades for Windows 8-integrated products are already scheduled for release within the next few weeks - specifically, a new "pro" version of the Surface is scheduled for "early 2013," equipped with a 64-bit core i5 that even includes a pen. Glitches can be resolved, and an integrated system that can be dedicated specifically for corporate use, as opposed to giving a variety of employees' mobile access to company data, is a much more secure and responsible means of increasing mobility in an enterprise. If Microsoft were to target corporate mobility and productivity as opposed to competing for the youth and consumer markets, its window of opportunity would remain wide open. All the pieces for seamless connectivity, including the upgraded and bar-setting Server 2012, are already in place. This is good news for midsize enterprises, because it's likely that Microsoft will eventually shift its strategy in this direction.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.