Windows 8 Can't Afford to Fail Like Vista

Calling Windows 8 "Vista Part 2" is premature and naďve. Yet Windows 8 is vulnerable in the same way Vista was and will pay a higher price for failure.

Windows 8 has been out for a month and half now, and although sales reports have indicated sluggishness, we can't conclusively say yet whether it's a success or failure.

Microsoft did announce it has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses, but that represents the number of Windows 8 PCs shipped to retailers or distributors, not the number of people who have bought Windows 8.

Adoption among businesses and consumers will take time because Windows 8 is a multi-faceted OS designed for both touch tablets and PCs (and smartphones via Windows Phone 8). Microsoft itself has even admitted that Windows 8 adoption will require patience.

For enterprises, the OS will slowly be integrated with existing Windows 7 machines. For example, a Windows 8 tablet could possibly be the traveling companion to a worker's Windows 7 desktop PC.

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The challenge on the consumer side is more black and white. Can Microsoft convince consumers to upgrade from the comfortable Windows 7 to the radically new user interface of Windows 8? Also, can Windows 8 compete with established and popular tablets like the iPad, the iPad Mini, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Google Nexus 7? These are important questions because consumers are more likely these days to bring their personal devices to work.

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It's no secret that the Windows 8 tile-based interface is sometimes difficult to navigate, especially with a mouse and keyboard. This has led to fears of the dreaded "learning curve." At the most extreme, Windows 8 has been called "Vista Part 2", after the much-maligned Windows 7 predecessor, Windows Vista.

It's way too early to throw around Vista taunts. Plus, it's an apples-to-oranges comparison. The time of Vista's arrival in early 2007 and its flaws -- resource-intensive, incompatibility with Windows XP applications, sluggish performance -- have very little in common with Windows 8, which is speedy and compatible with Windows 7 but arguably has more at stake trying to be a game-changer in the tablet era.

About the only thing Vista and Windows 8 have in common is they both followed successful operating systems -- XP and Windows 7 respectively. Vista failed on a grand scale but was buffeted by XP as a fallback and Windows 7 as a welcome upgrade.

Can Microsoft Survive If Windows 8 Fails?

Windows 8 Tablets Not Expected to Be Major Player Until 2016

Windows 8 has cast a wider net and must conquer new and successful categories that didn't exist in Vista's day -- namely, tablets and smartphones. Windows 8 tablets are available as consumer oriented ARM-based devices running Windows RT, or as Intel-based, enterprise-friendly devices running Windows 8 Pro which can be managed by IT departments.

With that said, Windows 8 does have the potential to fail big in a Vista-like way, and it won't get the pass that Vista got. It will lose out on the competitive tablet market and likely never get it back. Vista was solely a desktop operating system and could be reborn through Windows 7, which did the same thing but better. Vista could fail and not lose new markets; Windows 8 does not have that luxury.

A new CIO.com story worth reading by Paul Rubens outlines the consequences for Microsoft if Windows 8 fails to be a tablet contender. The worst case scenario: Microsoft's entire Windows enterprise strategy could go to pieces.

From the article:

"If neither [Windows 8 tablets or Windows Phone] take off then Microsoft will be left with a desktop operating system with a user interface that has no reason to exist -- one that has been adopted to match a tablet and phone user interface that no one is interested in. 'If enterprises are slow to adopt Windows 8 tablets or don't see the value proposition then that whole strategy is at risk,' says Forrester senior analyst David Johnson."
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