Windows 8 Doom & Gloom

First off, I haven’t installed any of the Windows 8 previews myself because I lack a spare machine (Virtual PC doesn’t work). I did follow Building Windows 8 and other weblogs and previews rather closely. What I’ve seen was increasingly troublesome, culminating in the following articles on the final Windows 8 Release Preview:

  • Michael Mace: “Although Windows 8 looks pretty and is great for tablet-style content consumption, I question its benefits for traditional PC productivity tasks.” (Mike’s article is long but excellent, I recommend reading the whole thing!)
  • Tim Anderson: “[Does Windows Release Preview] fix those things that have most annoyed the Windows community? In general, no.” Tim also demonstrates the huge icons that Metro apps show on desktop monitors.
  • John C. Dvorak: “Windows 8 looks to me to be an unmitigated disaster that could decidedly hurt the company and its future.”

All of these writers are neutral or friendly towards Microsoft; Mike is even a self-professed fan of the Metro design language. And they all think Windows 8 will fail. Tim’s article is the least negative but still concludes “Windows 7 is set for a long life”. Indeed I have yet to see a single non-Microsoftie article that’s bullish on the new version. Everyone seems to agree that Windows 8 is nice on tablets but a disaster on desktops.

Given that Microsoft’s mobile market share is close to zero and desktop alternatives (including Windows 7) are readily available, the best likely outcome is a worse-than-Vista adoption rate that severely damages Microsoft’s profits over the next several years. The worst outcome, which seems no longer impossible, is a mass migration away from Windows that destroys the company.

As for Windows developers, I second Mike’s advice: “you should probably hold off on Metro because it’s not clear how quickly its user base will grow” – and because Microsoft happily abandons massively hyped platforms without a second thought. Remember when .NET was supposed to be the basis for all things Windows? WinRT could easily be the next Silverlight. When that happens better hope you’re not too heavily invested.

2012-08-24: The final version of Windows 8 is now available to reviewers, and Tim Anderson has compiled a number of reactions. As expected, most range from cautious to negative, especially on non-touch devices.

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