Death to Start: Microsoft may have an extremely tough time selling Windows 8

Over the last 25 years or so, most of us have begun our days in office by clicking on the Start button of the Windows until, perhaps 2007. The iPhone was launched in 2007. Then came Android. And then the iPad. The mobile revolution is already shaking up the desktops, which are shrinking in volumes. A wider range of options among operating systems (like Android or iOS) as well as more mobile solutions (in the form of phones and tablets) have given today’s consumers a multitude of choices. Windows Phone is still catching up in the race. So it is indeed surprising when Microsoft used its mobile interface, Metro, to become the foundation of the new version of Windows, Windows 8.

Windows_8_Release_Preview_Start_Screen

Steve Ballmer has called Windows 8 its riskiest bet. Microsoft’s new Windows interface codenamed Metro is optimized for touchscreen devices like tablets and is extension in design of its existing Windows Phone interface. But what is really worrying is Microsoft’s assumption on Windows 8 working fine on traditional desktops. While Microsoft may have a good reason to focus on a touchscreen compatible operating system, given the massive popularity of iPad, the new interface is a sea change from what Windows used to be making it extremely difficult for consumers to adapt to the new operating system.

Not just the fact that consumers now access multiple screens and have them for different functions like an iPad or Kindle for reading books and a mobile phone for checking mails while a desktop may still come in handy for doing any financial transactions but also the way we have got used to Windows over the years, we may not really adapt to the changes.
Offices (read enterprises) –where Microsoft has always had it easy have drastically evolved as well. Our offices are beset with this new trend of consumerization of IT which means choosing the software we want to use over the ones, our IT department forces us to use or bringing our own devices (like tablets) to work. Given this situation why will I want to unlearn and relearn to use a new operating system when I can get my work done through other means.

Microsoft understands these problems and believes – though people may have difficulties using the new OS in the beginning they will eventually get around to it – it’s no more a computer! Other than this, there’s a lot to get excited about Windows 8. The new tile interface, which replaces desktop icons, is beautiful and really fresh. It may work like a charm on touchscreen devices. And Microsoft believes that if you really like the interface you can just add an appendage to the tablet in the form of a keyboard and make it work like a desktop.

But I wonder if Microsoft realises that most consumers are still not friendly with a touch interface. When people are forced to start learning again, they have the chance to cut and run. And then the whole industry is being meta-disrupted by low-priced tablets reducing desktop to being a secondary platform. What if millions of Windows users get disenchanted with the massive overhaul and switch to some other computing platform?

What’s your take?

You can download and try out Windows 8 consumer preview here.

[Akshat is a digital marketer is passionate about brands and marketing. He is particularly intrigued by how new media and digital channels are transforming marketing, putting consumers at the centre of all action. He works as a senior digital marketing manager with a leading BFSI organisation. He often blogs on the ever-evolving digital media space at loudopinion.wordpress.com. Image credit: wikipedia.]