As 2011 continues to tick away, an increasing number of rumors coming out of Redmond are starting to crop up. The vast majority of those rumors are revolving around Windows 8 and the future of Microsoft’s operating system. Speculation abounds that the new OS will have faster boot-up times, an application marketplace and a slightly improved design. It’s expected to be released next year.
For now, Microsoft has been publicly focusing its efforts on Windows 7, the fastest-selling version of its operating system ever released. But behind closed doors, it knows all too well that there is a lot riding on Windows 8. If it’s a success, Microsoft can keep major competitors-most notably, Google-at bay. But if it’s a failure the way Vista was, it could find itself in a very bad situation that could see it lose its power grip in the OS market.
1. Mac OS X Lion looks impressive
If Windows 8 launches next year, it will be up against Mac OS X Lion, an operating system that Apple plans to discuss at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Mac OS X Lion, which should launch over the summer, won’t be able to overcome Microsoft’s operating system market share. But it could be the benchmark by which Windows 8 is judged. IfMicrosoft’s option fails to live up to the standard set by Apple’s OS, expect the market to take notice. It could be Windows Vista all over again, and Microsoft doesn’t need that.
2. Chrome OS is still out there
Although the coming Windows 8 and Mac OS X Lion are getting much of the attention nowadays, it’s important to remember that Google’s Chrome OS platform is being prepared to take on those operating systems. Like Lion, Chrome OS won’t steal significant market share from Microsoft in the short term. But if Windows 8 turns out to be a loser, consumers will undoubtedly shift their attention to Google’s option to see if it’s a good fit.
3. The app store
Speculation abounds that Windows 8 will come with an applications market similar to the Mac App Store running in Mac OS X Snow Leopard. App stores are the future of desktop operating systems because developers and buyers are seeing quite a bit of value in them. If Microsoft’s app marketplace steals the show, it can maintain its development lead over Apple. But if the marketplace falls short and the App Store leads the way in desktop apps, Mac OS X might prove to be a bigger threat to Microsoft than it is today.
4. It can’t take another step back
Coming off the success that was Windows XP, most expected Vista to be a winner. But it wasn’t. And Microsoft needed Windows 7 to save the day. Now that Windows 7 has caught on with consumers and enterprise customers alike,Microsoft cannot afford to have another setback. The software giant must prove that it can string a couple of successes together in a row. That should allay any lingering fears about its focus on desktop operating systems.
Microsoft Cant Afford Another Windows Failure
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.