Kenny and the Windows Start Button

The masses aren’t exactly rushing to download Windows 8. According to reports, Microsoft’s new touch-optimized operating system is trailing its predecessor in pre-launch adoption by about 500%, if my tablecloth math is correct. Net Analytics wrang up the numbers for September and found that only .33% of Windows PC were running the upcoming OS, while 1.64% were running Windows 7 the month before it was released.

Matters don’t look rosey on the corporate side either. This from a Computerworld piece detailing Microsoft’s poor pre-launch showing with Windows 8:

“Just last week, Gartner said it would continue to advise its clients to essentially ignore Windows 8, and predicted that the OS would top out at a 20% to 25% share of corporate PCs.”

Launched in 2009, Windows 7 was by and large a very successful release for Microsoft. It sold out in Japan. Two weeks after its release its market share had surpassed that of Snow Leopard. And Win 7 magically became Amazon’s highest-grossing pre-order, surpassing even the latest Harry Potter book.

But a lot has changed in three years.

Mobile Rules the World

The cloud, mobile and the tablet have conspired to decimate the PC – that includes desktop PC and operating system sales. Instead of buying a desktop, many are buying a tablet and a laptop. Or a smartphone and a laptop. Or some other combination which does not include a desktop. Microsoft Windows runs, of course, on laptops. But increasingly we’re using smartphones for work, for entertainment, for social. Like Coke and Pepsi, that consumer battle is a two-horse race: Google Android and Apple iOS.

No One’s Running Scared from Vista

In 2009, we couldn’t get off Windows Vista fast enough. It was a certifiable disaster. Sure, by the time Microsoft rolled out its 623rd  Service Pack (which required three reboots, countless driver updates, and two Vodkas), calm was mostly restored, but the psychological damage was done. Give us something new. Something not called Vista. Unfortunately for Microsoft, there’s no flop to help spur new sales. Perhaps someone should’ve thought this through better. Windows 7 is a rather pleasant affair. It just works. As far as I can tell, there could be no compelling reason ever to upgrade my i7 desktop we use for video editing. I’d rather upgrade things like the hard drive, RAM, and monitor. Upgrade the OS?! A sure-fire way to waste a day or so – possibly weeks considering incompatibilities and errors likely to surface from Windows 8. Why bother, when Win 7 is more than good and stable enough?

Apps Are the Thing

Shrink wrap was fun while it lasted. Lay down $299 for some CDs, a nice manual, all packaged in a colorful (but mostly empty) box, and set aside an afternoon to install an application. Those were the days. Now even the name “App” itself represents the truncated amount of time required to get a result. We’ve gone from hours for application installs to seconds for App installs. Zippity do da! Angry Birds. Boom! Dropbox. Ring a ding dong! Waze navigation. And as for all that boring Office-ware productivity stuff? It’s all in the cloud, man. No one has to find an excuse anymore to try to get that “Student and Teacher” discount. It’s all free. Yep, this also hurts Microsoft. Windows 8 will run Apps too. But it’s been a long, arduous (and many would suggest unsuccessful  journey for management to re-wire Microsoft’s DNA from shrink-wrap bureaucrat, to new-world gunslinger. Still, Microsoft could have the last laugh if its unified operating system strategy — same OS for tablets, smartphones, and laptops — pans out.

OMG! They Killed the Start Button (you bastards, Microsoft)

When they Kill Kenny it’s funny, when they Kill the Start Button not so much.

It may seem ridiculous that something as innocuous as a button could make all the difference in the world. But it be so. After spending months running Windows 8 Preview I still can’t get my mind around the lack of a menu in the lower left. I’m programmed to click there with nary a thought – it makes the world feel right. Taking it away, as Microsoft has apparently done in Windows 8, is like removing the dashboard of your car, and replacing it with a quilted blanket. wtf, indeed.