The blogosphere thirsts after every little bit of Windows 8 news. Every new wallpaper or secret app list is a sensation. And of course, with today's release of the Consumer Preview, the blogosphere will go crazy. This reminds me of the hype during the Vista alpha and beta phases. And you probably remember what happened afterwards. However, Windows 8 has more in common with Microsoft's biggest success, Windows 95.
Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

When the first reports started to trickle in, that 10-year-old web cams and quite a few Windows 3.11 programs somehow didn't appreciate Windows Vista, the blogosphere verdict quickly swung back to the other extreme. Claiming that Vista is a mess was the best way to show the world that you are really a geek. Even PC blog stars like Chris Pirillo suddenly claimed that Macs are much cooler anyway and drew big applause from the nerd community. I also met quite a few people who didn't have the slightest idea about IT, Windows, or computers in general but who told me stone-faced and in geek parlance that Microsoft really messed up this time. I mean, everyone knew that, right?

Windows 8 logo

With Windows 95, things were quite different. Blogs were still called homepages, and most people didn't even know this word yet. The computer manufacturers decided that there was no real alternative to Windows and the masses just bought the computers that they found on the shelves. Of course, the daily computer experience consisted of even more broken Windows 3.11 applications and blues creens. Nevertheless, history tells us that this was the time when Microsoft created a desktop monopoly.

I think, Windows 8 has much in common with Windows 95. Actually, the concepts behind Windows 8 and Windows 95 are quite similar. Windows 95 was essentially a DOS program and the Metro UI is also just a user interface extension for Windows. With Windows NT, however, Microsoft got rid of MS DOS altogether as the underlying OS. I think, we will likely see the same thing happening in Windows 9 when the Windows NT era comes to an end. Who knows, maybe there won't be a Windows 9—just Metro 2.0?

But this is not my topic today. The interesting question is whether Windows 8 will be a complete mess or the biggest success. I think, the blogosphere only gives those two grades. As for the 10-year-old web cam, I believe, it will work with Windows 8. So Pirillo and company probably won't be able to show off too many error messages.

I think, the biggest danger for Windows is that two different kinds of user interfaces will have to live in harmony on the same machine. With Windows 95, this wasn't really the case. DOS programs worked well on Windows 95, but they had no access to the Windows environment. For instance, copy-and-paste only worked for Windows applications. However, these incompatibilities didn't prevent Windows 95 from becoming the most successful OS in history. The future will tell if Windows 8 can achieve the same in the tablet market.

We will see similar incompatibilities between Windows and Metro in Windows 8 as we saw with Windows 95. For instance, if you want to run an old-fashioned Windows desktop application on a tablet, you will suddenly realize a design breach and the user experience will be significantly reduced. In the pre-blog era, this wouldn't have been a big deal. But the situation is completely different this time. Myriad bloggers need stuff to complain about. Of course, bloggers also like to praise. But as in the whole media world, bad news sells much better than good news.

A huge community of Apple fanboys are out there now who will look under every Windows 8 icon to find the slightest ugly pixel and then start bashing on it like wild. I am not talking about the old school, the Mac fanboys. The iPad enthusiast won't hesitate to point out that this combination of Windows and Metro is impure. Steve Jobs would have said that it is tasteless to combine the old-fashioned PC model with the new and pretty post-PC world.

However, Windows bloggers will focus more on productivity. The fact that I can have a full-blown Windows with MS Office and all these extremely powerful Windows applications on a tablet, plus the new world of those tiny, nifty, and finger-friendly apps, is indeed enticing. Windows always won against its competitors because it was the most productive OS, not because it was the prettiest. The interesting question is whether this is still the case. When Steve Jobs fantasized about a post-PC world, it was mostly because people appeared to finally follow his way, and they bought devices mostly because of their prettiness without bothering much about their functional shortcomings.

Just think about it. PC sales are going down because of these technically and functionally very simple tablets. I often see people in coffee shops, bowing down to the table to their super-flat iPads, trying to type text on a device that was made to consume, rather than to be "creative" and produce content. Why didn't all those email writers and Facebook commenters buy a much cheaper netbook? Why do they consider the lack of a physical keyboard a great feature instead of a serious limitation? Easy answer: A netbook isn't pretty, and its user experience is, therefore, limited. Or as Steve Jobs would have put it, an iPad makes your heart sing when you swipe your finger tenderly over the Gorilla Glass. You can't really say that about a netbook when you are preparing your PowerPoint presentation at the last minute at the airport.

So will Windows 8 make our hearts sing? Hard to believe. It depends mostly on Samsung and company and whether they can build devices that will support both worlds—the Windows world and the Metro world—harmoniously and productively. For instance, I am thinking of ultrabooks that can be converted into tablets by removing the keyboard. That way, you can be productive with old-style Office applications; if you want to make your heart sing and get a great "user experience," you just remove the keyboard and start fondling your beloved post-PC device tenderly.

The success of Windows 8 won't depend solely on the productiveness and prettiness of these devices. As Amazon proved with the Kindle Fire, price is another important factor. Bill Gates predicted in 2001 that tablets will soon dominate the PC market. It simply didn't come true as soon as he thought because Windows tablets were much too expensive. As strange as it may sound now, one of the main reasons why the iPad became so successful was because of its very low price compared to Windows tablets. Having said that, if the majority of Windows 8 tablets will cost the same or more than the iPad, the Windows market share will continue to fall.

This brings me back to Vista. Vista didn't flop because Microsoft's engineers did a bad job but because the whole Windows ecosystem totally failed. Vista was one of Microsoft's greatest technical achievements, no doubt. Believe me, without Vista the botnets would now dominate the Internet. Vista was mostly a management failure. Microsoft management didn't recognize how much Windows depends on its ecosystem. They thought they just have to release a great new OS and the ecosystem will follow. Those times are definitely over. The ecosystem now follows the verdict of the blogosphere.

If Microsoft makes the same mistake again and doesn't take that into account, then Windows 8 is doomed no matter how good the OS is. If hardware and software vendors don't embrace Windows 8 very quickly, we will soon have two major PC operating systems. No, not iOS and Windows—Apple is still not a serious Microsoft competitor because they still follow the old Jobs doctrine that hardware and software belong in one hand. This worked well in the early days of the Macintosh and will also work for a while for the iPad, but, in the long run, lawsuits against Samsung and company won't save Apple. There are just too many hardware competitors.

The big Windows competitor is Android. If Google finally acknowledges that the future doesn't belong to web apps and ditches what is probably the most unsuccessful OS in history (you have heard of Chrome OS, haven't you?) and aggressively pushes Android to the desktop/laptop/ultrabook/netbook as the best cloud client, then Windows has a serious problem. The things we hear about Android 5 already indicate that Google plans to go in this direction.

And the fact that Windows Phone 8 will have the same kernel as Windows 8 shows that Microsoft tries to reach the same destination while coming from the opposite direction. There is no more doubt that the mobile and desktop worlds have to be united.

The only question now is which ecosystem will be faster. I am pretty sure that Ballmer is fully aware of these developments. However, I have my doubts about Brin and Page. I think, they are still blinded by the success of their search engine and might see too late that the web is not everything. History will then repeat itself. Microsoft won because IBM understood too late that hardware isn't everything. (And because Steve Jobs preferred pretty products over productive products.)

I believe Microsoft is technically on a good path with Windows 8. And the ecosystem? I am not so sure about that. What do you think? Mess or success?

15 Comments
  1. Christian Wimmer 10 years ago

    Windows 8 Server looks great. Windows 8 will be okay on Tables, but I really don't see Windows 8 beeing a success on normal desktops PCs. Controlling Metro with a mouse and keyboard is, excuse my language, simply too retarded.

  2. KoalaBear 10 years ago

    Not for me. I don't like the looks of Windows Phone, Windows 8 Metro and also I saw the looks of the new Visual Studio. They are going downhill right now.

    Also the logo of Windows 8... What a joke 🙁

  3. Christian, you can still use the old UI on desktops. The interesting question will be which UI ISVs will prefer.

    KoalaBear, Windows Phone usually gets high grades from its users. However, it remains to be seen if the majority of PC users will also like it. We will only know this when Windows 8 will be available in the stores. The beta phase is of know help here because mostly geeks install beta products.

  4. KoalaBear 10 years ago

    @Michael:
    True. For me it's all too much rectangle-ish. And too black and blue. No gradients, no colorness. I think it's just "not my type" 🙂

  5. KoalaBear 10 years ago

    Hmm, maybe when I post this also, it will not look like a duplicate comment. Strange how it sees this as a duplicate of my previous comment. Indeed, it has the same name and address 😛

    @Michael:
    True. For me it's all too much rectangle-ish. And too black and blue. No gradients, no colorness. I think it's just "not my type" 🙂

  6. KoalaBear, if you ask me the design of the logo was influenced by Apple's minimalist design style. I'd say it is a matter of taste. I am beginning to like it although I usually dislike Apple's design.

  7. Wayne 10 years ago

    This is a great article, I agree with everything you've said.

  8. JimH 10 years ago

    When you made broad statements and use the argument of "fanboys" to make a case about markets that are growing, your arguments lose a lot of credibility and in this case really sound like...dare I say it...a frustrated or jealous Windows fanboy.

    I agree to some extent with what's trying to be said though. The ecosystem is very important and always has been. The mistake in this article though doesn't have to do with bloggers and ecosystems. Windows XP and Windows Vista were different enough that they were more or less different platforms with the Windows world. We're about to see the same thing occur with Windows 8 and we saw it before with Windows 2000.

    Windows 2000 and then Windows XP were successes simply because there was not enough competition and MS had locked in hardware distribution with vendors like Dell. MS was in a dominant position to control things. Somewhere a long the line Apple saw the consumer world as the market to break into where MS really didn't have as much control and then later some in the linux world kept at it in developing for non-desktop style devices. Both would later go on to target tablets and mobile phones in the consumer world. Blackberry had the business market for the most part.

    To put it simply...MS is learning that competition is alive and well. They really never had to deal with this except back in the dos days. During the Windows era sure you might call it competition but it really wasn't. Those companies like Apple, Novell, and others that they dominated simply didn't execute and had no idea how to compete. They delivered good products but were limited to niche markets. Now MS is seeing competition that can execute and they've been the ones stumbling not knowing how to compete against it. This isn't going to be about whether MS is headed for doom and gloom but just that there will be competition in the future as long as none of the companies let up or lose too much valuable talent to deliver products and services.

    Personally I think Windows 8 looks quite promising but whether it delivers is a whole other story and even if it does, Apple has such a large lead in the tablet market, it's going to be tough to slow them down in the consumer market. I think MS is making a mistake on focusing so much on the consumer market...too many eggs in one basket. Enterprise users are begging for a good tablet OS from MS and IT want one they can easily manage. Word is that Windows on arm won't let you join it to the domain so that could hurt enterprise penetration.

    I find it all pretty exciting and reminds me a bit of the 80's when personal computers were being carried into businesses from home. Mainframes were on their way out or relegated to specific tasks. We're seeing similar occurrences with the market now. PC's are going to have their tasks and tablets and phones will have theirs. Having Windows everywhere isn't going to benefit any end user or developer much at all when the input and functions catered to the device are so different. This seems lost on MS but at the same time Apple really doesn't care about the enterprise market. With Google they're just all over the place. Whatever happens I know I'll be able to get useful tools from someone.

    BTW, if you believe price was the only factor as to why tablets didn't take off before the ipad, you're delusional and one more example of someone looking at numbers. Design was a big part of it. Windows tablets were clunky with poor battery life and the interface required a stylus. I actually believe Apple would have had a very popular tablet device even if it cost $899 at intro. Many had speculated it would cost that or $999. The design is what won people over and cost just helped get it to the masses quicker. Amazon ran with the design that was already done and then used cost to and their ecosystem to make their push.

    I find a lot of Windows blogging sites tend to totally discount design as fashion and it's not. It's much bigger than that. Many Windows bloggers tout function but seem to conveniently neglect that tablets are performing functions. This isn't a fad. The only tablets being bought and seemingly being left on the shelf because they're not all that functional are android tablets. Windows tablets aren't getting used much because the design still isn't there and then you need to throw in cost at this point as well.

    Things are changing and from my perspective certain bloggers need to start acknowledging this. Forget the wars and attacks between favorite companies and platforms. It's about delivering something good that people find in their eyes to be affordable, useful, and has value. Apple is doing this...the real question remains as to whether anyone else can.

  9. Uniblue 10 years ago

    I think Window 8 will be the successor because new technology capture the new things and get in use.
    Thanks for sharing

  10. Wayne, Uniblue, thanks!

    JimH, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that Microsoft could create a desktop monopoly because there wasn't much competition. As I mentioned in the article, this was also Apple's fault because they could have competed with Microsoft but Jobs decided to focus on pretty products instead of licensing Mac OS to other hardware vendors. It appears this didn't change, so I think there is no reason for bloggers to acknowledge anything with regard to Apple. The Mac once was the superior PC but Apple messed up. They are doing the same now with the iPad. Thus the real competition comes now from Google. It is now Windows against Android. I predict that iOS will lose market shares in the same way Mac OS did after Microsoft teamed up with hardware vendors. The only difference is that Apple faces now two OS vendors with a better strategy. You can see a similar development in the smartphone market. The iPhone will stay popular but it already lost its dominance.

  11. JimH 10 years ago

    Michael, I appreciate your thoughts but you're spreading misinformation.

    Jobs certainly was a part of the decisions for how the Mac's product line originally rolled out. It wasn't until June '85 though when Scully, who was in charge, was approached along with Jean Louis Gassée by Bill Gates regarding clone licensing.

    http://www.cultofmac.com/148548/in-1985-bill-gates-pitched-apple-to-make-macintosh-into-windows/

    Of course they turned it down as the company was quite profitable. Jobs was removed from power previous to this. In retrospect many are beginning to see now that it wasn't so much that the clones won but just that nobody else executed on what they did best. Apple became mismanaged over the years and forgot how to stay focused on innovation with real, useful products. Apple's board had also been blamed for the greed and the direction they were trying to influence the company into. Reread history and you'll find that the very board that brought Jobs back into power at Apple is also the one who Jobs replaced very quickly.

    All in all there are a few different reasons Apple didn't see the success that some expected. No matter though if being number one is all that matters then, yes, Apple was completely inept. If being a successful business where customers find Apple's products useful and the market grows, then that's where your arguments grow very thin. With your statements the Mac shouldn't be growing by anywhere near the percentage that it is especially with the margins that Apple is making on them. Look at the ipod's success. Many predicted that MS could flex it's clone licensing muscle at it. It didn't happen and failed badly. The iphone? MS is barely able to make an impact at the time. Many analysts have already come to the conclusion that android only has been the success it has because carriers drooled over the ability to do with it what they want and that Apple, in the US, got locked into an exclusive agreement with AT&T. Verizon had turned Apple down to begin with and then when they saw where they screwed up, they couldn't get it and then fell behind. Android made them relevant again but the problem is that there's no money being made in the android marketplace. The demographics support IOS as the customer base where the money is. This is why Sprint has gambled big on bringing in the iphone. It's not about dominance in numbers like many of the windows bloggers have grown up thinking over the years.

    In the tablet market I'll admit that MS has a real chance to catch up a bit. The corporate market is there for the taking. I really don't see the home market opening up much for them though. Android has little retail presence thus they have no carriers to help push them. Android's only chance is the business market and there isn't a company willing to push android with complete solutions to compete against what MS will eventually bring to the table regarding the whole package not to mention there are the security and fragmentation questions when it comes to support.

    Now of course I'm looking at all of this from a perspective of over the next couple years. A lot can happen in that time. What many bloggers don't realize is that these are companies that are learning from the past and executing very well on it *and* have the money to execute.

    I'll end this with it's fine to agree to disagree. People have been making Apple doom and gloom predictions for years and while they almost did fizzle out, they came back in a big way. Neither of the companies that you predict will win out did anything to prevent that. MS sells more Windows licenses and Google has more android devices but in the end what do those numbers really mean? It isn't really about who number one is but a company that makes money and provides a product that customers buy and use. All 3 of them are doing just that in some capacity now. There's room for it.

  12. Jim, you are spreading misinformation if you say that I am spreading misinformation. 😉

    There is no doubt that Jobs always was the one who ensured that hardware and software are integrated. He already had this idea in 1976. Walter Isaacson writes in his Steve Jobs book (p. 71, Kindle location 1475):

    >> Jobs walked the floor of the Personal Computer Festival, he came to the realization that Paul Terrell of the Byte Shop had been right: Personal computers should come in a complete package. The next Apple, he decided, needed to have a great case and a built-in keyboard, and be integrated end to end, from the power supply to the software. “My vision was to create the first fully packaged computer,” he recalled.<< This was about the Apple II, long before Sculley came into play. Actually, it all started when he founded Apple with Steve Wozniak. Wozniak wanted an open system that would have put Apple into the middle of an ecosystem. But Jobs didn't like this idea. He wanted to be in control of everything. He later even was against third party apps for the iPhone. His management team had quite a hard time to convince him. He wanted to be in control of everything, so that the success of a product could be attributed to him and to him only. He was never really interested in profits. I am pretty sure that later Bill Gates was quite thankful for Jobs' selfishness because this prevented Apple from becoming a serious Microsoft competitor. No wonder that Gates adores Jobs. It is possible that Tim Cook will give up the Jobs selfishness doctrine if Apple runs into problems, but I wouldn't count on it. Jobs would have said "It is in our (Apple and Jobs) DNA to be in control of everything." What many blog commenters don't understand is that is not about which company is the best company. 4sysops is a blog for business IT and businesses have to make long term decisions. The Jobs selfishness doctrine will only work as long as Apple can deliver new product categories. But once an new product category is on the market, others will copy it and some will make it better and cheaper. It is then only a matter of time until Apple loses significant market shares in the market they created. Thus if you don't like Microsoft, as a business you should count on Google because they have the same strategy that will prevail in the long run.

  13. Stefan 10 years ago

    "They thought they just have to release a great new OS [Vista] and the ecosystem will follow. Those times are definitely over. The ecosystem now follows the verdict of the blogosphere."

    Funny interpretation, the customers didn`t like the great and perfect Vista because some bloggers told them to hate it? Are you serious? I guess you told people in this blog that it is perfect, what went wrong? Did they think for themselves? Customers are so mean, they whine about crappy products, damn them.

    "The big Windows competitor is Android."

    They are not competitors at all, only if you mean Windows mobile.
    The sentence would be correct if you wrote "The big Windows competitor is Linux." Did you ever wonder why Android got their market share from zero to no.1 in only severall years? Bingo, there was no need to write a new OS from scratch (not even Google could afford that time).

    "There is no more doubt that the mobile and desktop worlds have to be united."

    There are seperate worlds today and will be tomorrow. Simply because people want to use the best fitting concept/product. One OS with one UI for all purposes is an illusion.

  14. Stefan, it is really no secret that the media have a lot of power. They can make presidents and they can destroy them. The same works for products. With Vista is was more than obvious. Vista bashing was a big business for the media because people love it if a big one gets bashed. A few compatibility problems were enough to make a big story out of this. I met countless people who told me that Vista was a mess even though they never touched it.

    As for Android, I suggest you read what Google plans for Android 5. And Linux is nice, but no serious Windows competitor in the desktop market. But of course, if you consider Android as a Linux distribution, then you are right.

  15. peter hu 10 years ago

    I like the tile interface.
    Windows 8 look is very bold beautiful and fluid.
    is a newcomer, young and attractive
    it's perfectly suited for tablets thanks to the low power drain and low heat generated by systems running on ARM processor !!;)
    im so happy for codename:Windows 8 and i think Windows 95 was a big deal for users and developers alike.
    Overall, this release feels smoother, faster, snappier, and more stable.
    Metro does rock on desktop and laptop!
    with this your luck can be perfect.
    now with touch you can have all your requirements plus even more.
    My prediction is clear and I know that there will be a much perfect luck for the whole W(P)8(RT) universe than Microsoft can imagine.I respect Microsoft for doing that. My opinion on these metro hating freaks is that they are all people who don't like to change

    and dont forget Thank for feedback mark as answer and log uri

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