How Windows 8 Succeeds From Here: A Prognosis By Scott M. Fulton, III, ReadWriteWeb’s Enterprise Correspondent

March 13th, 2012

Let’s call “victory” for Windows 8 a state of customer satisfaction that is at least equivalent to that for Windows 7. For Windows 8 to meet that bar, the following things will need to happen over the course of the following year:

  • Windows Phone 8 will need to merit a respectable third place in the public mind, completely supplanting BlackBerry.
  • At least one virally popular, cross-platform app will need to be created for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Right now, there is no solid reason to run Metro as opposed to some other application or Web service on the Desktop.
  • Consumers will expect a very thin form factor for them to accept the idea of an Ultrabook as opposed to a tablet. Windows 8 will not be perceived by a majority of users as improving the experience for mouse- or touchpad-based PCs. So it has to make the case that an investment in a new Ultrabook will pay off better than an investment in an iPad.
  • Microsoft needs to catch Apple on the “up-beat” of its cadence. If Apple wanted to ensure that the noise around its latest iPad drowned out any buzz Windows 8 might generate, Tim Cook might have opted to delay that tablet just a few months. If the new iPad is indeed the big Apple product until at least the holidays, then Microsoft may yet have a small window of opportunity – although October would be on the late side.
  • There needs to be one Microsoft design department finalizing the architecture choices for everything that uses an account. When someone at the Best Buy demonstrates an iPad, he’s asked to pull up a song. Two pokes, and there’s a song. Plug the iPad into a dock, and you have crisp, clear stereo. Consumers will compare an Ultrabook to an iPad. They will ask the Best Buy guy to poke up a song. If the Best Buy guy responds, “Do you want to choose an Xbox Live gamertag to go with your Microsoft Account, or would you prefer to generate a username and avatar at random?” they will walk out of Best Buy and into an Apple Store.

Microsoft is capable of making a comfortable, workable system for a new class of PC. It’s done it before, and it’s been successful. But more than any company I know, Microsoft is capable of unlearning from its own success. It needs to find the exit button for this pathology and relearn the lessons of Windows 7.

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