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Windows 8 Is Microsoft's Riskiest Product Ever

The Price of Success, the Cost of Failure

First a start Apple believes tablets are more closely related to phones and Microsoft believes tablets are tied to PCs. It is why the iPhone and iPad run iOS and Macs OS X. Microsoft's smartphones run Windows Phone, its PCs and tablets will use Windows 8. The iPad is a big iPod touch and its apps are optimised for a larger screen. Microsoft tablets can run PC software, they have to be downsized to a smaller screen. The latter is much harder to do.

Another key difference is hardware. Apple is believed to be switching its Macs to ARM, but for now OS X devices run on Intel, iOS uses ARM. It's simple. For Microsoft, Windows Phone devices run on ARM, but Windows 8 devices will be split between ARM and x86. This is further complicated by the lack of an emulation layer between the two. Intel's taunts were correct. So while HTML5 and JavaScript may attract developers, having to code two ARM and x86 versions of every Windows 8 programme is a major turn off. It's messy.

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Equally messy is security. Legacy aspects to Windows 8 will mean anti-virus is required from the get go. "I think it will always be a good idea to run security software," said Windows head Steven Sinofsky when speaking about the new platform. "If you think your machine’s not a target, you’ll find out pretty soon that it is." This is hardly inspiring. "I think it’s possible to write security software that you never see until something bad happens," Sinofsky added hopefully.

Last October Ballmer was asked what was Microsoft's next "riskiest product bet". He replied "the next release of Windows". Whatever his failings, Ballmer isn't naïve. He knows the challenges laid down here. He knows them and with Windows 8 he is going for it anyway. Microsoft is desperately behind in the mobile space and mobile is now the primary driving force in technology. A Windows platform which can run across any device, run mobile apps and desktop software and suit any type of input is the Holy Grail.

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Best of all it is still early days. Microsoft may have now shown its hand, but time is on its side. Windows 8 won't launch before late 2012 and even the '8' moniker is currently just a codename. "We'll figure out the real name in due time," said Steven Sinofsky. The phrase is apt, with Windows 9 unlikely to appear before 2015 Microsoft will need every day between now and 2012 to figure out how to polish its riskiest product to date. If it gets Windows 8 right the company will be back fighting Apple and Google on equal footing. Get it wrong and the size of the 'due' will be beyond even Microsoft's ability to pay it.

Keithe6e

June 5, 2011, 12:25 am

>> having to code two ARM and x86 versions of every Windows 8 programme is a major turn off

And something that's not required. .NET CLR has been with windows for a long time now, Windows going multi platform has been on the cards for a while now.

Arctic Fox

June 5, 2011, 5:25 am

@Gordon

I agree, this is a major gamble for MS but also, very clearly, a calculated gamble forced upon them by what appears to be the mother of all paradigm shifts in the computing and communications market. They have clearly decided that a holistic approach is the only way forward. If they launch a successful cross-platform os with the same touch interface available on all devices then they are both competitive in all sectors and their business in each sector will reinforce all other sectors. Someone who buys a Windows tablet running Win 8 and is happy with it will be more likely to buy a Win 8 phone and so on. The ability to switch immediately between touch and mouse/key board input highlights the relevance of kit like Asus' "Transformer" and various other docking solutions we see coming to the market place. I firmly believe that MS have made the right decision - whether they succeed in implementing successfully remains, of course, to be seen.

Faizaan

June 5, 2011, 7:32 pm

A fair post and one that, as mentioned, Steve Ballmer agrees with the sentiment.

The only point I would raise is this release of windows is not like the Longhorn days, when the company would parade concepts that are far from ready for release. Rather this is a Sinofsky ship and Sinofsky has habit of not showing of material until it IS ready (or practically) for release.

There will be much more to come during the BUILD conference, so we will hopefully get further details then!

Arctic Fox

June 6, 2011, 12:43 am

@Faizaan

I agree with your point wholeheartedly. MS' presentation was both conceptual description *and* practical demonstration of actual work in progress - there was not the faintest sniff of "vapourware" about what they showed us. I think that the key here will be 1. The customer experience (of course) 2. Sheer size and complexity (if it is to run on the smallest devices) 3. Efficiency (smoothness and rapidity of operation and *battery life*). I have no doubt that they can get it to *run* on "all" devices, it is how *efficiently* and (let us not forget) *stylishly* they can do it. I am however firmly optimistic.

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