5. ARM processors
At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows will be capable of running on ARM-based chips. That's an extremely important revelation that could have a profound impact on the marketplace. As long as Windows 8 runs well on ARM, Microsoft could significantly improve its relationship with mobile device makers.
6. It will likely be the tablet OS
Although companies like Dell plan to release Windows 7-based tablets later this year, it will beWindows 8 that could carry Microsoft's tablet banner over the next few years. Windows 7 just isn't as well-optimized for tablets as it could be. Microsoft's lack of meaningful market share in the tablet space is cause for concern. Windows 8 needs to be a winner on tablets to ensure Microsoft doesn't get left behind in that key battleground.
7. Can Microsoft justify a quick refresh?
Windows 7 has been on store shelves for less than two years. And already, reports suggest Windows 8 will be coming out in 2012. That would leave less than three years between two major releases. Considering enterprise customers like having road maps that are years out and many firms haven't even brought Windows 7 to their operations just yet, Microsoft will need to do an even better job this time around at making a case for why companies should adopt its OS. If it can't justify the quick refresh, Windows 8 will be collecting dust on store shelves.
8. A failure could push people to the cloud
The future of the operating system could very well be in the cloud. It's up to Microsoft to determine when that happens. If Windows 8 is a success, consumers and enterprise customers will be less likely to consider cloud-based operating systems as a possible alternative to Windows. But if it's a failure, it might not be long before Microsoft's take on desktop operating systems is considered obsolete and unnecessary.
9. It's still integral to its business
Microsoft is a public company with a responsibility to shareholders to maximize their stake in the corporation. Over the years, Windows has been integral to the company. If Windows 8 follows Vista's path and fails, it could mean huge trouble for its stock. It could also mean big trouble for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. It's easy to get caught up in the technological side of Microsoft's business, but Windows 8 will be important for financial reasons, as well.
10. Major vendors are considering their options
Microsoft has always enjoyed some control over PC vendors, including HP, Dell and Acer, among others. It knows that they need to run its operating system, so they will generally accept its terms. But as of late, vendors are considering other options. HP plans to have WebOS running alongside Windows in the PCs it ships going forward. And Dell has grown quite friendly with Google. That doesn't mean those vendors won't be running Windows 8-they will. But if other operating systems can provide something unique that catches on with customers and Windows 8 falls short in some way, it might not be long before PC vendor allegiance to Windows breaks down.