Apart from Kinect there has hardly been a Microsoft product which is as deeply intriguing, scope changing and an indicator of a breakthrough strategy, a shift from the roots approach as the recently announced Windows 8! I had blogged earlier about how it would be a mistake to write off Microsoft. It is clever business strategy to make oneself obsolete by one’s own new products than being forced into obsolescence by competition.(One of Microsoft’s closest friends is facing forced obsolescence, remember?)
Here’s how Windows 8 is a major departure from everything that smelled of Microsoft Legacy:
1. Whether or not Windows 8 is a financial success for Microsoft, we’ve now crossed a critical threshold. The old Windows of mice and icons is officially obsolete. That resets the playing field for everybody in computing.
2. Windows 8 has been announced early and This may be to stem the Microsoft disadvantage and loss of mindshare against competitor OS announcements recently.This may adversely impact sale of Windows products in the near term, but Windows 8 refreshes/resets the Microsoft approach to computing wholly and 8 is the first sensible response by Microsoft to the strategic challenge it faces from the web. It apparently introduces not just a new user interface, but also a new programming model that embraces web technologies and integrates them with Windows resources and APIs.
3. Microsoft has an awful lot to manage and answer for in terms of how it migrates its legacy baggages, but then the good things about Windows 8 is the fact that Microsoft is beginning to re-think. The alternative was to cling to the past and be a stationary target, gradually eaten away by the iPad and Android and Chrome and smartphones and whatever else the web world cooked up.
4. The downside here for Microsoft is that by embracing the next generation of computing, Microsoft is obsoleting its current products. So unless Windows 8 finally gets all the traction, Windows 7 which is the last generation of Old Windows will not fly of the shelves and keep loosing out in terms of consumer focus. That could help Google and Apple products, which is a tactical quagmire for Microsoft. Change and you loose in short term, Dont change and you are obsolete in the long term. So there is a risk and a likelihood that Microsoft will stall its own revenue this year.
5. Microsoft’s biggest strength is now its Achilles heal. Backward compatibility (with legacy apps, even in the video, looks so so antiquated). Microsoft really needs to walks the path; Cleaner Design versus Backward Compatibility very very subtly and deftly. A old world dino in a swanky new world could spoil the views (and the experience).
6. The other flaw in Windows and its announcement of Windows 8 is that it has come in early… 18 months early. That means Microsoft will feed us 18 months of vapour-ware. Thats way too long and will allow iOS, Chrome and others to come better than Microsoft at a constantly evolving game. If Microsoft has to create an impact it should release Windows 8 by Q1,2011. Sales and Interest in the product tends to suffer over longer periods!
7. Platform transitions are huge opportunities for developers/ dessigners/ OEMs. They reset the playing field for apps and devices. Windows 8 has not hinted anything about Apps, hardware, docking, compatibility and hopefully within the 18 months leeway, and the eco-system players will get to know more of what to expect when WIndows8 finally does hit them.
A reading in history reminds us about the fall of incumbents in the era of evolving technology. The leaders in DOS applications (Lotus, Word Perfect, etc) were second rate in GUI software. The leaders in GUI apps (Adobe, Microsoft, etc) were not dominant in the web. It’s actually very rare for a software company that was successful in the old paradigm to transfer that success to the new one. Microsoft by positioning itself as a key competitor to itself, now has a better chance to ride into the web dominated space than it had holding on to the Windows of yesteryears.
The battle between Old Windows and New Windows will challenge Microsoft fundamentally. This could be the largest challenge for Microsoft in its history. After, all its used to being a dominator in the market as against being a challenger, which is what Google, Apple, WebOS and other web technologies have forced it to become.