Microsoft's Windows 8 Faces Upgrade Hurdles: Analyst

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2011-12-07 Print this article Print

Microsoft's Windows 8 will prove a "split success," according to an analyst, with the operating system having a more difficult time with the traditional PC market.

Microsoft is gearing up to release the Windows 8 beta in February 2012, which will likely result in a final release near the end of that year.

According to research firm IDC, however, the operating system might not prove a blockbuster across both tablets and traditional PCs. "Windows 8 will launch with split success," IDC analyst Al Gillen wrote in a Dec. 2 tweet, referencing a company report predicting the state of worldwide system infrastructure software in 2012.

That report apparently referred to Windows 8 as "largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs," and IDC expects "effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor," according to portions quoted by ZDNet. (IDC has not yet returned eWEEK's request for comment.)

Microsoft is making a hard push for Windows 8 as a "no compromises" tablet operating system. Its user interface is bifurcated into two separate environments: one filled with colorful tiles linked to applications, supposedly ideal for tablets, and a more traditional desktop that should appeal to power PC users.

In addition, Microsoft is also equipping Windows 8 with features instantly familiar to anyone who's used a tablet, most notably an application store with everything from games to productivity software. By baking an application storefront into Windows 8, and giving developers a significant slice of the revenue pie for successful products, Microsoft is firing a significant shot across the bow of Apple and its App Store franchise.

Some analysts have also expressed concerns over Microsoft issuing Windows 8 tablets by late 2012 at the earliest.

"For tablets ... Windows really isn't a fast follower," Forrester analyst JP Gownder wrote in a Nov. 29 corporate blog posting. "Rather, it's (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP's now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablets."

Windows 8 tablets, he added, also face pressure from Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet, which "are reshaping consumer expectations in the market, driving down price points (and concomitant price expectations), and redefining what a tablet is."

In theory, that could squeeze Windows 8 between second- and third-generation tablet rivals, all of which will be under pressure to cut prices to margin-killing levels. That would necessarily make Windows 8's quest for a big chunk of the tablet market a little more difficult, but if Microsoft wants Windows 8 to replicate Windows 7's phenomenal sales record, while also making its mark on the tablet industry, it has little choice but to push ahead.

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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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