Daniel Eran Dilger
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Why Microsoft 8 doesn’t matter

Daniel Eran Dilger

Gadget blogs are in a lather to photograph every piece of new prototype hardware seen running “early beta” builds of Windows 8, thinking that the completely new Metro-fied release might dramatically shake up the tablet market. They’re wrong, here’s why.
Microsoft’s shift in strategy with Windows 8 is remarkable. Since Windows 95, Microsoft’s flagship operating system environment has changed very little in appearance on a functional level, mostly folding in ornamental features like the new color scheme of Windows XP or the translucency and gloss of Windows Vista.

The core functionality and behaviors of the Start Bar, Control Panel, Windows and Internet Explorers have all remained largely unchanged across the last 15 years.

That’s all about to change. Windows 8 ushers in an entirely new user interface and an entirely new development style. Like Apple’s iOS, Microsoft is closing the door on windows, at least in the Metro side of things where content and apps exist as full screens rather than in the overlapping clipping regions ushered in by the Macintosh in 1984.

Microsoft gives its developers Windows 8 tablets with a taste of Bob

Microsoft’s OS approach very different than Apple’s

However, rather than inventing an entirely new user interface appropriate for mobile devices as Apple did, first proving it in mobile phones, then moving it into the iPod touch and then a larger form tablet, and then incorporating the most appropriate elements of the new environment into its desktop OS, Microsoft has charted its own course.

Microsoft began by inventing an entirely new user interface that was not appropriate for mobile devices. It then proved it to be a failure on the Zune and then again as its replacement for Windows Mobile. Windows Phone 7 has erased Microsoft’s faltering success in smartphones and replaced it with resounding failure of epic proportions.

In desktops, it attempted to bring its entire Windows desktop to netbooks, where it ran poorly. To improve things, Microsoft tried to remove functionality and charge extra for its reinstatement, repeating a failed Vista strategy of 2007 in netbooks with Windows 7 in 2009.

In 2010, Microsoft then took the least appropriate elements of its desktop environment and tried to make it into a tablet, calling it Slate PC in a effort to distract from earlier, failed attempts to do the exact same thing over and over again across the previous decade.

Once that collapsed, Microsoft then took the Metro work that failed to spark any interest from buyers on the Zune and WP7 and used it as the new launchpad for its next generation of desktop software in 2012, radically changing a product that already enjoys monopoly control over the entire PC market to force it into a new role it is not equipped to do. It’s almost as if Microsoft is being run by HP.

Why Windows 7 on Netbooks Won’t Save Microsoft
Windows Phone 7: Microsoft’s third failed attempt to be Apple
What will HP do with Palm’s webOS? Most likely: fail

Unlearned lessons from Vista

The last time Microsoft tragically tampered with its monopoly position in Windows, it did so by introducing some significant changes to how certain things worked and looked with Windows Vista. Some nerds loved Vista but the public that actually buys PCs hated it, making it the least successful launch of the decade. But Vista did far less to shake up Windows than Windows 8 will.

Vista confounded users by simply changing around some of the Control Panel options, failing to work with some existing software and hardware, and operating a bit slower than the previous XP had on the same machines. Windows 8 goes far beyond making a few minor changes. It entirely rethinks Windows into a product that is no longer Windows but actually a Zune-Bob layer of hyper functional magazine graphics obscuring the Windows desktop.

Further, a key feature of Windows 8 is that it will run on ARM, finally making it possible to produce a highly efficient Windows tablet device. Unfortunately, Microsoft has no plans to actually support existing Windows apps on ARM, meaning that ARM tablets running Windows 8 will only really deliver the new Metro Zune-Bob layer of crap that the market has shunned over the past two years while not delivering the familiar functionality and utility that actually represent the real value of Windows itself.

Microsoft failed to learn anything from its mistakes with Vista. While Apple’s Steve Jobs was mortified by the bungled release of MobileMe, apologized for it while making amends and promising to do better, and ultimately referred to it as a mistake while unveiling its successor under a far more forgiving release schedule, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has insisted that Vista was not a mistake at all, refused to acknowledge any problems, and talks about the release as if it were merely misunderstood by an idiot public. That’s an alcoholic level of denial.

Windows 95 and Vista: Why 2007 Won’t Be Like 1995

Fortunately for users, there’s already an ARM tablet that runs Windows.

Imagine if you could access the full power of Windows on a light, thin, highly portable tablet device that cost just $500. You don’t have to wait until the end of next year to get this. It’s been around since last year. It’s called Citrix running on an iPad. Anyone who needs to run Windows apps remotely can already do so, without any work from Microsoft.

What Microsoft fails to understand is that the value of Windows is not that it is branded by Microsoft; it’s that it provides some functionality that people need. Microsoft can pump out all sorts of irrelevant crap (and it has, from Surface to Vista Aero to Slate PC to Zune to WP7), but the reason people buy Windows is not because they love Microsoft and want to buy everything it makes, but rather because Windows does something useful that they need done.

To drive home that point, consider that people who need a mobile Exchange client are best served by the iPhone and iPad, devices that plug into Exchange Sever as well as or better than Microsoft’s own mobile clients, but also do a lot that Microsoft’s own branded devices don’t.

People buy Windows for Windows apps, not out of Windows loyalty

The fact that the iPad has allowed users who need to access Windows apps to do so for a year now says a lot about Microsoft’s delusional arrogance in regard to thinking that people want stuff with the Windows brand rather than just Windows functionality. Enterprise customers, including many who are beholden to Windows, have been buying iPads by the truckload. In come cases, it’s to run Windows apps via Citrix. In others, it’s to avoid having to manage a Windows desktop for a user who doesn’t really need a dedicated PC to do his job.

A key reason why lots of PC users have switched to Macs since 2006 is that they could access the native functionality of Windows, either using Boot Camp or a virtualization tool. It’s really something that the average retail price of a PC laptop is now under $500 while Apple’s MacBooks start out at $1000. Despite that gulf, the perception of value among Macs has caused Apple to outpace the growth of the PC market by several times, every quarter for several years now.

People are already getting Windows functionality without buying a Windows-branded PC, and they’re already getting Windows functionality on a tablet without waiting for Microsoft to deliver a Windows-branded device. If the market supports paying at least a $500 premium to buy Apple laptops over generic PCs, how will Microsoft convince buyers to pay the same price as an iPad to get a version 1.0 Windows 8-branded tablet sometime next year after Apple has another year to refine iOS, iPad hardware and sell another 50 million iPads?

Particularly when their only choices for getting a Windows 8 tablet will be to either get a full powered, but much more expensive Intel-based tablet that runs hot enough to need a fan, or an ARM-based tablet that won’t run the very apps they expect Windows to run?

Tablet troll fight: Android vs Windows

Windows Enthusiasts keep looking at Windows 8 with a reverential respect for Microsoft for creating a new product with the Metro look, but fail to see a pattern emerging around products that sport that UI. Have they already forgot about the Zune and Windows Phone 7? Wait let me check… yes still not selling worth a damn.

A flashy, handsome UI makes for nice demos to excite the base, but it didn’t save Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets or HP’s webOS TouchPad, and it won’t set a fire under sales of new PC Tablets built by HTC or Samsung or Dell or Acer. In large measure, this will be because Microsoft’s “no compromise” approach to Windows 8 actually makes a huge compromise: it fails to recognize that the value of Windows comes from running Windows apps.

Apple expended significant efforts to maintain seamless backwards compatibility every time it shifted its Mac platform, first from 68k to PowerPC, again to Intel, and again to 64-bit. Microsoft is simply shrugging away what will be a huge issue for buyers. If users have to resort to Citrix to run Windows apps on a “Windows” tablet, they might as well benefit from Apple’s enormous economies of scale and get a cheaper, slicker iPad that can actually run real iOS apps as well.

As I’ve noted previously, the biggest impact Windows 8 will have is in dividing the Apple haters between Android and Windows, setting in motion a fracture that will leave pundits wondering which they should throw their support behind as they try to distract attention away from the iPad. That will weaken the propaganda supporting Android’s existing product options and blow the cloud of Windows 8 vaporware up to an unattainably high peak of expectation that Microsoft will never be able to reach with its shipping product.

But ultimately, Windows 8 won’t matter because firstly, the PC market is in steady decline, and secondly, the “tablet market” simply fails to exist outside of Apple’s own iPad sales. For anyone to challenge that, they’ll need to build an alternative the offers similar functionality at a similar or better price. Apple’s only credible competitor in smartphones is a willfully infringing distribution of free software being distributed by an advertiser via carrier subsidies.

If Microsoft can’t compete against that in smartphones, how will it fare in tablets, where even Google’s billions can’t ship boxes loaded with free software?

  • MikieV

    And the complaining has already started, now that Microsoft has announced the “no plug-ins” advantage of IE10 in Metro.

    All the Flash-lovers are in a tizzy that they won’t to access Flash content in the Metro version of IE, and are wondering if Silverlight will even be supported.

    Last Pass users are also miffed that IE10 in Metro will not support their favorite password program.

  • http://scottworldblog.wordpress.com scotty321

    Why is Daniel Eran Dilger the only voice of reason on the Internet?

  • miloh

    What I see in Windows 8 is a rush to beat Apple to market. Cloud-focused computing, simplified touchscreen interfaces, this is where things appear to be headed. Apple recognized this a long time ago and has been slowly moving in that direction. But Microsoft seems to want to rush it. I say let them.

  • John E

    yup, this time DED nails it. would only add a few details he passed by:

    the reason Windows 7 has been a success (well, two actually) is that it reversed all the stupid things Vista did to its UI as Dan noted, and everyone who depends on Windows applications, as he notes is the real reason they use Windows, really needed at long last to update from XP and its endless security issues and Exchange limitations.

    also, on-schedule execution has always been a huge problem for MS, as Dan often writes (look how long it is taking to get Windows 7 phones into the market from Nokia and others), and porting Windows now to ARM is no small challenge, plus all the other issues of Windows 8 new design. the odds of MS really getting W8 to market next year are slim to none. but for MS this is S.O.P.

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    If you check out the videos at sites like thisismynext, the Windows part of Windows 8 is barely even demoed on these ARM tablets running a Kal-El processor. Even if Microsoft wanted to layer “Windows 7.5” into Windows 8, I don’t think they’re going to be able to.

    This actually exacerbates Microsoft’s problem. On the low end (i.e. the end supposedly competitive with the iPad), you’re going to have devices tha either have no Windows functionality or run it poorly. Anything that does give access to traditional Windows is going to be priced out of the ipad’s league AND saddled with the superfluous Metro UI.

  • John E

    one more thing. there is no way MS’ enterprise customers will adopt Windows 8. they can’t possibly abandon their x86 applications and infrastructure. MS must realize this, even Ballmer.

    so perhaps this represents the “forking” of Windows into two branches – one a continuation of Windows NT 6.x for x86 enterprise customers as MS continues to update Windows 7 periodically (like Apple does with OS X), and the other a new consumer OS line of Windows NT 7.x for ARM hardware of all kinds – tablets, “ultra books,” etc. (kinda a weird equivalent of iOS).

    but this could be a fatal error. MS will have to “migrate” its consumer Windows users to a whole new generation of everything, which is a pain in the butt for them and costs some extra money for new apps. so they will lose a lot in the process to the competition – iOS, Chrome OS, and whatever else is out there.

    the Vista flop cost MS 5+% of the market. but this Windows 8 miscalculation could cost them a lot more – like 25%. this is how monopolies end – they erode due to bad decisions.

  • MikeL

    @miloh: A rush? Really? This is a developer preview. Windows 8 is not due out for another year at least.

    @John E: You do not need x86 Windows to run x86 applications. Our company’s standard is x64. All of our x86 apps still run just fine.

    [Microsoft isn’t a development company, it’s a marketing company. It rushed Windows 8 marketing messages out the door as soon as it had an alpha demo to show. The development will continue at a snail’s pace. If Longhorn/Vista offers any clues, it will drop functionality as the due date is perpetually pushed into the future.

    Also, x86 and x64 are not really different platforms. x64 is x86 with some AMD extensions. IA64 (Itanium) is a very different platform. You can’t run x86 and IA64 apps on the same Windows system.

    Microsoft even made the transition from x86-32 to x64 far more complicated for users than necessary (far more complex than Apple, for example).

    Moving to ARM is a much bigger task, because it’s not just a different architecture, it’s also a very different goal. – Dan ]

  • miloh

    @John E

    This is where Apple was smart. They’re switching people over to a new application platform, but they introduced it via a supplementary channel (iPhone). This allowed the new technology and market to grow in parallel to what already existed. Then, once it was populated and thriving, they started merging it in.

    Microsoft appears to be trying to shift people to a similar model, and they’re doing it in parallel too. But their market is empty. The only thing I can see that might help them is vendor lock-in. If enough people are forced to stick with Microsoft, they might have a small shot.

  • Howard

    If MS did not have the enormous corporate safety blanket to provide annual, reliable income – one wonders how long it would last in the market.
    This is a company that has contributed almost nothing innovative to the world since it’s first few years. It is astonishing how consistent they have been.

    Another simply brilliant piece of analysis by Daniel … I think I’ll just copy and paste my praise in future … ;)

  • MikeL

    Howard, ever heard of Kinect? Look up what the medical industry and the scientific community is doing with it. Below is one. There are many others. I would say that’s much more than “almost nothing”.


    [Microsoft bought an Israeli company and released its work as an Xbox 360 peripheral. I’m not sure if that’s a great example of the expected output of a multibillion corporation that spends far more on R&D that Apple. Does it really deserve that much praise? – Dan ]

  • lmasanti

    You forgot that people paying +500 to buy an Air to run Windows will also pay for the copy of Windows itself –maybe a full retail price– and that’s what MS likes more!

    On the other hand, MS Office also run –I suppose– in the web and lots of business apps already went the web way, removing the need of windows.

    The need of Windows –I think– comes from IT personnel that wants to keep its jobs.

    [I think the majority of people needing a BaseCamp/virtualization installation of Windows are tied to an IT group, and therefore can avail themselves of site licensing. Certainly anyone who can drop $200 for Windows isn’t really worried about the cost of their devices – Dan]

  • Howard

    lmasanti – corporates are slaves of their fear. They are slaves of an obsession with ‘compatibility’.
    My small company was in business for three years until recently and we dealt with dozens of businesses, engineers, architects and suppliers.
    We operated 100% Mac environment and never in all of those years had a single compatibility issue with any of them.

    They need to liberate themselves from their bondage !

  • MikeL

    Dan, you’re right. I should have said 32 bit and 64 bit instead of x86 and x64. They both are x86 architecture. But, many people still assume that there is an issue running 32 bit apps on 64 bit Windows. In fact, Microsoft specifically told us NOT to use 64 bit Office 2010 on our Windows 7 64 bit computers. Our company standard if 64 bit Windows 7 and 32 bit Office 2010. That’s what I was referring to in my response to John E.

  • John E

    point is, the entire existing universe of existing enterprise Windows software – thousands of third-party licensed programs specialized for every kind of business – just won’t run on Windows 8. and even if there is an emulator built in for them, no business is going to go through the trouble and risk of switching to it.

    so Windows 7 (NT 6.2) can’t be discontinued by MS. they couldn’t be that crazy. enterprise is their bread and butter. they can just update NT 6.x with new decimals, like Apple does with OS 10.x. next we’ll see Windows 7.2 Professional or some such, and so on.

  • MikeL

    John, I think you’re misunderstanding something about Windows 8. The only thing that has been mentioned about software not running is Win8 on ARM. What gives you the impression that enterprise apps won’t install?

  • Ludor

    MikeL – if I can get my head around this issue, I think it’s about how legacy apps will run only on Intel tablets. Which, so far, hasn’t impressed anyone. And MS wants ARM tablets, because that was all the rage last winter or so. I could be wrong though.

  • John E

    is there going to be an Intel version of Windows 8 too? or just the ARM version? existing apps will not run on the ARM version.

  • rmwhite3

    It must be boring to have to write the same article over and over again. “Microsoft Continues To Screw Things Up Because They Keep Doing Things The Same Way.”

  • yogsodoth

    I can tell you’re not a Windows coder.
    Steps required to build your app for ARM if written in managed code (anything after the launch of .Net).
    1) Change build target.
    2) Compile.
    And that’s it.

    [If that were really the case, why isn’t Microsoft heralding that as its strategy, rather than saying you can’t simply run code designed for x86 on ARM with some translation work? I’m aware of recompiling apps for other targets. As I noted, Apple has supported that (along with fat/Universal Binary distribution) for almost two decades.

    But moving from x86 to ARM is not just a difference in CPU. It’s a difference in other rules related to ARM’s mobility and efficiency. Which is why Microsoft has to deliver the Win 8 Zune/Bob layer in the first place, rather than just putting out Wind8 for ARM.

    I’ve quoted enough of Sinofsky for you to have reached that conclusion on your own. It’s not my theory, it’s what Microsoft itself is saying.

    But just to hammer this point home, look at the problems with Itanium and even x64 that Windows users have struggled with. And that’s keeping it on a workstation level, not moving apps to an entirely different product.

    But sure, if you’re talking about bullshit applets on the level of sophistication of a clock or Flash web game, then yes, you’ll be able to peddle your ported applet to work on the tablets that ship a long time from now. I’m talking about the apps people expect to run on Windows. – Dan]

  • miloh


    In the business world, the word ‘rush’ does not necessarily mean an attempt to get it out tomorrow.

  • John E

    ok, i read Dan’s piece over at AI. so yes, there will be an x86 version of Windows 8 too that can run all the existing applications.

    so what we really have is classic MS PR bullshit, calling two totally different OS’ the same name. just like Windows CE, which was never really Windows NT at all.

    so the demo was a total fraud! it was all x86 apps pretending to be ARM OS& apps! OMG, and the blogsphere lets them get away with this shit.

  • MikeL

    Let them get away with what? Their plan was to build Windows 8 as a mobile OS first. Then, adapt it to the desktop. Just because one installer is for ARM and one is for x86 doesn’t mean it’s a different OS.

    Seriously, why is everyone running their full opinions after only a developer preview? A lot will change in the next year before RTM. I just hope they have it properly optimized for a tablet like iOS is for the iPad.

  • John E

    it is a different OS my friend. don’t be obtuse. an ARM OS is not an x86 OS. i suppose you can throw the same top layer UI skin on top of both – Mango? – but they can’t run each others’ apps! (emulation modes don’t negate such a fundamental difference – like the OS X “Classic mode” that enabled OS 9 apps to work up through OS X Tiger).

    Apple morphed OS X from PPC to Intel, but it was a much shorter technical distance to travel and Apple could use Rosetta as a translator of sorts to support PPC apps up through Snow Leopard. There won’t be any such translator to support x86 Windows apps on ARM Windows.

    meanwhile, Windows Phone 7 is running a variant of the totally different Windows CE OS – with the Mango skin too. what’s going to happen to it? does it go ARM Windows OS too, or stay CE??

    who knows! MS just slaps the “Windows” brand on top of everything no matter what the heck it really is underneath or how much it works with anything else. it’s all going to be in the Cloud!

    and btw, XBox runs on some other offshoot of NT, but it’s not NT. what the heck is it? who knows! but it’s got Windows Live!

    this is all just pure snake oil MS bullshit. and a real technical mess too. you won’t see the RTM in 2012. and that demo the other day was a fraud.

  • mr_kitty

    I think it was Gruber that hypothesized that Metro will actually be a layer on top of the desktop version of windows. (Intel) PCs will get traditional windows with this new frosting on top, where as tablets (Intel or ARM) will just get the frosting. This is why MS is pushing hard for people to develop for Metro, as those apps will run in both environments.

    As far as I can see, that would be the only way to make what MS is promising even remotely possible on a technical level. But if that is their plan, they’re heading for a user base that will be massively disappointed to find out that their cool new ARM tablet doesn’t run ANY of the Windows apps they bought it to run. That would equate to a failure that makes Vista look like a fantasy launch by comparison.

    Which, I’m fairly sure is already happening. I mean, we’re all fairly technically adept people commenting here, right? Just look at how confused WE all are about what this fucking OS does or how it works! How is Microsoft — who aren’t exactly known for clear marketing messaging — going to educate Mom & Pop AOL of what Windows 8 is and why they need it?

    And the real kick in the balls for Microsoft? Steve Jobs has said the idea of a touch interface on a desktop is an ergonomic nightmare that they just aren’t interested in, BUT if Microsoft actually proves them wrong and there appears to be genuine interest in Windows 8’s Metro UI, all Apple would have to do is release an iOS emulator / layer for Mac OS X. Which, since iOS actually IS OS X — and they have a version for it in Xcode already — would be relatively trivial.

  • Maniac

    re: “As I’ve noted previously, the biggest impact Windows 8 will have is in dividing the Apple haters between Android and Windows…”

    That’s it. BOOM. (And maybe Metro will give Google something new to copy…)

  • kdaeseok

    Looks good. 8 seconds boot. I wouldn’t leave my comments on it before I actually uses it, but the reviews so far are positive.
    My favourite OS would be Ubuntu, so I don’t care much about OSX – Windows war (Chrome OS seems more interesting though), but I’ll keep an eye.

  • FreeRange

    Windows 8 is windows with neon lights. But with tablets, you just get the lights. Fail.

  • beanie

    Daniel Eran Dilger in comment #10 wrote:
    “Microsoft bought an Israeli company and released its work as an Xbox 360 peripheral.”

    Microsoft Kinect (Project Natal) was done in-house. They bought Israel-based 3DV for their patent portfolio since they were working on a similar product.

    You forgot Microsoft also Metro-fied XBox360 which is still selling well. So your argument, that Metro UI for Win8 will fail because Zune and WP7 are not selling, is not logical. Nothing wrong with Metro UI, WP7 is not selling because Android has too much momentum and 40% U.S. market share and seems to be still growing.

    [I didn’t mean to suggest that Metro was a toxic layer of death. I was merely pointing out that no new product Microsoft has shipped with it has taken off, and contrasted that with Apple’s organic development of iOS across the very successful iPhone, the iPod touch, the iPad, and Apple TV.

    Metro isn’t really key to the value of the Xbox franchise, is it? People buy it for packaged games, not to experience Metro. Windows PCs are bought to run Windows software, not a windows-free Zune-Bob layer. Were that the case, people would already be using Bing. They are not.

    Don’t confuse a pointless, meandering series of irrelevant comments with argument. I think you can do better than that – Dan ]

  • duckie

    Nearly – you forgot about the OTHER Israeli company Primesense, who developed and still own the movement sensing tech that Kinect is based on.

  • MikeL

    Funny how people on here are saying that if Windows apps don’t install on the ARM version of Win8, it will be a failure. Last time I checked, we cannot install OSX apps on our iPads. So, why couldn’t the same model work for MS? There will be a Windows store on the tablets similar to the App Store on the iPad. I would actually prefer the ARM version be totally separate like iOS is to OSX. I don’t want them to run a full desktop version of the OS on the tablets. I don’t think that is a good solution.

    [The difference is expectation. Apple didn’t set high expectations and dash them. Microsoft is setting unrealistic expectations, just as it did with Zune, Vista, and WP7. If you don’t see a pattern you should look at things more honestly. – Dan]

  • atom74

    The point is that many people will think or even expect that they can run x86-software on their new ARM-tablet. As Daniel said in a previous post, Microsoft tries to create one brand (Windows 8) for both desktop/notebooks and tablets, but in fact the x86-legacy part and the metro part will be so to speak two different OS. x86-apps won’t run on a metro-OS ARM-tablet. Apple however, named OS X and iOS differently despite of the similar OS base. Most people never thought that they could run OS X apps on the iPad, because the iPad was “the big iPod touch” (sorry for that) derived from the iPhone/iPod OS. However Microsoft wants to offer “Windows on a tablet”, but will more or less start from scratch with Windows on ARM, without a large amount of metro-apps. Apple however, could offer a lot of iPhone-apps when they introduced the iPad. Which of those are more promising?

  • roz

    Of course Win8 matters. It’s a real attempt to offer platform unity between desktop devices and modern touch-based mobile tablets. You are writing about it because it represents a threat to Apple’s strategy. If it did not matter why would we be talking about it?

    [Do you think I respond to threats and singlehandedly seek out and destroy them? Or do you know that I simply write about overblown optimism with a realist take, and end up looking correct because what I said was informed and realistic? Do you think I killed the Zune, Vista, Wp7? I did not, I just just pointed out their problems to a world of glassy eyed optimists who were certain Microsoft would win despite very dire problems with its strategy. Trying to paint me as “threatened” by Windows 8 just makes you look silly, because you’ve read enough of my stuff to know better. – Dan]

    Yes, only Metro apps are supported on the smaller devices. The market is going to be educated about that point but it is not a huge challenge.

    Generally, this is a smart strategy by MSFT. They have to look at what they’ve got. They have Windows, Office and Exchange. So they are leveraging Windows to penetrate the mobile space. They tried before to do this by imposing Windows usage model onto mobiles, that failed. Now they are trying to create a new interaction model that works for touch and can live in a desktop environment. So as users as purchase new PCs, they will grow familiar with Metro. This will lead them to be more comfortable with transitioning to a Win8 Tablet and potentially Windows Phones.

    I don’t personally find Metro that appealing in terms of how it looks and appears to work but whether you like what they did with Metro or not, this is a pretty smart strategy if they can pull it off.

    The question will be how PC buyers, especially in the enterprise, react to Metro. If they hate it then MSFT may have a problem on it’s hands. I think the real risk here is the way Metro is pushed on the user. They need to switch back and forth from it. That may be painful to users and confusing to corporate buyers – so they may stick to Win7. That is the interesting thing about these Win8 pitches, there was no talk or a corporate user. It was all directed towards consumers.

    On the other hand, if people can tolerate Metro or are indifferent to it, they may gradually become more open to MSFT in the mobile space, and that will impact Apple. Apple should not take the desktop for granted as a point of leverage for competition in the mobile space.

    Couple points:

    Lots of companies buy small companies for innovative work. That is standard practice now. The question is if they can make good use from the acquisition. Clearly MSFT did that with Kinect.

    @JohnE : I think the Metro apps are not compiled executables but interpreted code so they will run across chip architectures, much like Dashboard widgets could be moved to Intel without modification. Not true of course for any x86 apps, those will only run on Win8 running on x86.

  • Ludor


    “Of course Win8 matters. […] it represents a threat to Apple’s strategy. If it did not matter why would we be talking about it?”

    Because it’s great entertainment to watch Microsoft trying to copy Apple design.

    “Yes, only Metro apps are supported on the smaller devices. The market is going to be educated about that point but it is not a huge challenge.”

    You think the market wants to, has time to be educated? Gaining what, Excel?

    “So they are leveraging Windows to penetrate the mobile space. They tried before to do this by imposing Windows usage model onto mobiles, that failed.”

    Are you talking about Windows Mobile (the old one) here? From what I understand, they did fairly well until Blackberry pushed them out (I might be wrong). But yes, as the world around it moved on, it withered and died.

    “So as users purchase new PCs, they will grow familiar with Metro. This will lead them to be more comfortable with transitioning to a Win8 Tablet and potentially Windows Phones.”

    Except consumers are buying fewer and fewer PCs, while the enterprise will likely stick to Windows 7. Sounds like a great strategy.

    “That is the interesting thing about these Win8 pitches, there was no talk or a corporate user. It was all directed towards consumers.”

    And the only thing Microsoft EVER sold successfully to consumers is the Xbox, after burning billions on it. And the console market is in decline, as I hear it.

    Thing is, it would probably do the mobile industry some good to have more than two major platforms going forward. But Microsoft still hasn’t revealed any evidence that it’s up to par as a third contender.

    My apologies if I come off as antagonistic, it’s late afternoon here and I’m a bit bored.

  • MikeL

    Ludor, Copy Apple? I have Windows 8 in a VM to take a look at the Metro UI. If you think that looks anything like an Apple design, you may need to get your eyes checked. Not. Even. Close. You should try it out.

    The difference is expectation. Apple didn’t set high expectations and dash them. Microsoft is setting unrealistic expectations, just as it did with Zune, Vista, and WP7. If you don’t see a pattern you should look at things more honestly. – Dan

    Dan, that’s just speculation. Why didn’t you list Windows 7 in there? Why are you only cherry picking the projects that weren’t successful? They set the expectation with Windows 7 and they came through. It was successful. This is the next step from that successful project.

    [I’m not speculating that Microsoft will fail to deliver. I’m pointing out that it is setting unrealistic and misleading expectations. I’m also comparing Microsoft’s stated plans for Win8 with previous failures that suffered for the same reason.

    Windows 7 set expectations very low and had very little to prove. It WAS Vista SP3, renamed, not some entirely new product. And describing it as successful is a stretch. It was damage control for the Vistapocalypse. Sales of PCs under Win7 were still well below pre-Vista sales. Being better than Vista wasn’t claiming much.

    Windows still hasn’t recovered from Vista, and Windows 8 won’t set PCs back on a growth spurt. At best, it will not be rejected like Vista. At worst it will create similar backlash from people who want Windows functionally, not Microsoft Zune-Bob pizazz. – Dan]

  • John E

    @ row: Metro is a top level UI layer that will essentially look the same to users no matter what MS OS is running underneath it. x86, ARM, CE, XBox NT … that is until you then switch to the older-style desktop option to run legacy or traditional desktop applications. nah, that won’t confuses anyone …

    but not Server i would think – that’s business.

    which highlights the unstated reality that MS is finally “forking” Windows between an enterprise line and a consumer line – as many have predicted would happen. Businesses are not going to switch to the W8 that is being hyped now. they are not going to retrain all employees and overhaul their setups just for Metro eye candy and a touch UI they don’t need. they are all finally just updating to W7 and leaving XP behind these days. So MS is going to have to keep developing W7 and all its support for them. they may call it W8 Professional or whatever, it will essentially be a SP. it will need to minimize any major changes to business applications and services, both MS’ own and third-party. even Ballmer can’t be stupid enough to mess up MS’ bread and butter enterprise business just to chase the tablet market … can he?

  • Howard

    Dan – I absolutely love the way you take the time to add responses to people’s comments above. I comment on a wide range of blog type sites (where I know more than I do about MS software btw) and it is a real luxury.

  • miloh


    Microsoft may be able to succeed in having their own tablet-based application store like Apple. It will be an uphill battle, however.

    When Apple introduced its AppStore it did so on a supplementary platform, not as a new version of OSX. They created an entirely new device that was intended to be used alongside the desktop. When the iPad came out, there was already a huge volume of software and a large customer-base. When they finally added the AppStore model to the desktop, people already knew it. The titles may not have been directly transferrable from the iOS AppStore, but the developers were already familiar and experienced with the concept as were the customers.

    Microsoft has no prior marketplace. This is new territory for them, their developers, and their customers. They also have existing competition. In short, they’re playing catch-up … again.

  • Ludor

    MikeL: I’m half blind, but thanks. I suppose I meant to say, “Microsoft trying to copy Apple’s strategy.”

    Oh, and you know how “design” pertains to more than graphics? Sure you do.

  • yogsodoth

    “But just to hammer this point home, look at the problems with Itanium and even x64 that Windows users have struggled with. And that’s keeping it on a workstation level, not moving apps to an entirely different product. ”
    Those problems don’t exists in managed code. For those who use unmanaged code, yeah, sure that’s a problem. Which is why managed code changed everything. Applications running in the .Net CLR really don’t require anything other than switching the build target – that’s the entire point of the runtime. I myself maintain several code-bases at work for x86/Itanium that require nothing beyond recompiling. No code changes needed. Woth Win8 MS is introducing access to all levels of the OS in managed code, so there’s no longer a need to use unmanaged code even if you’re doing drivers. Goodbye, C++.

    [Unfortunately, unless you own the code, you’re powerless to do anything with it. Win8 buyers will be consumers, who will have to wait around to see if Adobe and whoever else decide to port the apps they want to Metro. Corporations with custom apps (the most likely to be using managed code, no?) are the least likely to be doing anything with the distraction layer that is Metro – Dan]

    It’s not Microsoft’s job to provide x86/x64 emulation for ARM… it’s the job of the developer to provide an ARM version. VS makes it easy and economical to do so.

    “Sales of PCs under Win7 were still well below pre-Vista sales.”
    And yet, Windows 7 was and is the best-selling operating system of all time, with an installed user base of 450 million that absolutely dwarfs all iProducts combined by a factor of 10. Will MS’s store succeed with their huge developer base, no cost to developers, no cut taken by MS, and 450 million consumers? Oh, gee, I wonder.

    [Yes, it’s hard for Apple to compete with anyone when it’s compared against every other vendor on the planet, whether you’re talking about Android licensees or Windows 8 licensees. Thing is, that huge group of “everyone else but Apple” is now fractured in the tablet space. And no makers of PCs have yet sold a successful tablet. How will Windows 8 solve this in ways that webOS and Android failed to do?

    Also, you credit Microsoft with 450 million customers. How many of those use iTunes vs how many use Windows Media Player? They’re largely Apple customers, which is why Apple has been doing such a great business selling PC users iPhones and iPods and iPads.

    Apple has already sold over 300 million iPods, 130 million iPhones, and 30 million iPads. Apple has 200 million iTunes accounts tied to credit cards. You’re trying to favorably compare Microsoft’s 450 million licensees of Windows, most of which are in the < $20 range? PC users are as much Apple users as they are Microsoft customers. You are aware that Apple makes quite a bit more money than Microsoft these days, right? - Dan ]

    Microsoft is aiming for convergence with Windows 8 – whereas Apple has been aiming for divergence, to protect their bottom line. How long can Apple maintain an artificial price distinction between low-powered and regular products now that Intel is jumping into the low-power game? How long will the performance difference between SOC systems and regular systems affect consumer decisions? Not much longer. MS provides a platform for a device that is a tablet or a consumer PC packaged together – and in that sense, they’re certainly not “copying Apple’s design”.

    [They certainly aren’t in that regard. Microsoft doesn’t sell hardware. Windows doesn’t sell valuable hardware. It sells laptops with an ASP under $500. As I’ve pointed out several times, if you’re trying to sell a tablet that costs $500 (ARM) or $800+ (Intel), which customers would you target: those who buy $500 tablets and $1000+ notebooks, or people who expect to pay $500 for a compete computer setup and $300 for a chicklet netbook? I would not want to be Microsoft these days.]

    Right now, I can use my ASUS EP121 as a tablet, or I can plug it into a monitor and use Photoshop. More devices like that are coming quickly. Will consumers really continue to use lower-powered devices like iPad when more powerful devices are available in the same price range? Unlikely. We’ll hit the point where SOC systems are indistinguishable from regular systems (from a usability standpoint) sometime in the next 2 or 3 years, at least for business and consumer use.

    [A lot of people bought Corwin devices when Apple was selling iPods, and made similar comments about that company’s superiority. But Corwin didn’t and doesn’t dominate media players, nor did it do much of anything else since. Have you noticed that? ]

    Consumers don’t care about iPad’s interface – they care about the conveience and form factor. The only point about the interface they care about is that it’s usable with touch. MS just made a UI overlay that is highly usable for touch.

    [Are you sure about that? Watch that video of Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott (two eager beaver fans of Microsoft) trying to figure out how to work the new Win8 tablet. Now look up YouTube videos featuring people who have never used a computer before (raining from small children to very old seniors) pick up an iPhone or iPad and just play around with a big smile. I think you have overestimated how “highly usable” Windows 8 Metro is. There is some reason why Zune and WP7 aren’t selling worth a damn. I don’t think you can chalk it up to voodoo and blackmagic advertising, because Microsoft has ad resources too. I believe it actually spends more money on ads (not that that helped sell Vista). ]

    Finally, love the way you call WP7 a “failure”. Really? 9% market penetration in the first year is a failure? What was Android then… think they had 4% in the first year, and now they outsell iPhones by a huge margin…?

    [WP7 does not have 9% market penetration. It now has 1% share. And WP7 wasn’t breaking into the market like the iPhone or Android. It simply replaced WiMo, which once had ~25% share of smartphones. If you don’t get that WP7 is an absolute failure, you are so fantastically delusional that you should probably either seek medication or stop schroomin for a bit. – Dan]

  • yogsodoth

    Feh, no edit button. I apologize for my typos above.

  • chuckb

    Your best article in some time.

    “Unfortunately, Microsoft has no plans to actually support existing Windows apps on ARM, meaning that ARM tablets running Windows 8 will only really deliver the new Metro Zune-Bob layer of crap that the market has shunned over the past two years while not delivering the familiar functionality and utility that actually represent the real value of Windows itself.”

    Exactly. In another article you point out that people buy Windows for Windows Apps, not Windows loyalty. On tablets, Microsoft is throwing out the only reason anyone has to buy one.

  • miloh


    Actually, consumers care about getting shit done. Convenience and form-factor are simply means to that end.

  • yogsodoth

    @miloh: Actually, they seem to care more about playing Angry Birds than getting shit done. Getting shit done on an iPad on-screen keyboard isn’t exactly the easiest thing around.

  • Ludor


    “[Microsofts] huge developer base, no cost to developers, no cut taken by MS, and 450 million consumers?”

    “How long can Apple maintain an artificial price distinction between low-powered and regular products now that Intel is jumping into the low-power game?”

    “Apple has been aiming for divergence, to protect their bottom line.”

    “Will consumers really continue to use lower-powered devices like iPad when more powerful devices are available in the same price range?”

    I don’t follow your reasoning in these. Would you care to elaborate, kind sir?

  • miloh


    Getting things done does not necessarily require a keyboard. It all depends on what one is trying to accomplish. Relaxation is a valid goal. Some people want to see/talk with distant family members. Others want to queue up movies on NetFlix or buy a new toaster. Productivity does not necessarily imply office work.

  • roz

    The threat was to Apple not you and I am now sure why you said some of that stuff. I’m not trying to slam you.

    I’m interested in the posture that’s taken when we look at these new offerings. I don’t like it when things get puffed up in either direction.

    I don’t like the Metro look but I would not assume that Windows 8 will be rejected in the marketplace the way Vista was. Vista had a lot more problems than aeroglass. It did not work well with the install base and had a lot of real incompatibilities with drivers for all sorts of devices. Those problems gave hardware makers a real reason to resist Vista and Microsoft was forced to retreat. Windows 7 has made up a lot of this ground. We can’t assume the Win8 team is making Vista-like mistakes. They seem pretty focused on performance and keeping requirements down.

    Yes, MSFT has had a lot of failures but they also have a ton of persistence. Even if Metro is not ideal now, they will keep pushing on it until it is acceptable. In terms of backlash, they need one pref to turn off that layer and they are good for most users. Apple has more irritating stuff in Lion, as much as I like it.

    So the result will be that as PCs are replaced, they will likely have more of the Metro stuff on them and they will be more connected to the MSFT cloud. Those realities are going to benefit Microsofts mobile offerings and they are to the detriment of Apple’s stuff.

    Look at the way OSX is going to be integrated with iCloud. So we can expect the same stuff on Windows and that will mean there will be better integration between Win8 PCs and the related mobile devices. iPhone and iPad will be competing with that. It is not gloom and doom but this move by Microsoft will likely be a factor in that – assuming they don’t F it up before then.

    Also, to those that say that MSFT not supporting win32 apps on tablets is a loss, I can’t see this as ever a realistic option, purely from a usability standpoint it would have not been worth much.

    The real question is if devs will make Metro apps? By putting it on Win8 they create a bigger target for develops while the tablet instal base builds – assuming it ever does.

  • yogsodoth

    “WP7 does not have 9% market penetration.” The Nielsen ratings disagree with your opinion on that. You may want to check them before mentioning delusion. I have a WP7 device, and I know a few people who’ve picked them up. They’re quite happy with them, as am I. The Mango launch will also affect numbers somewhat. Interesting that when someone buys two successive versions of an iPhone, that seems to be counted as two sale s for Apple, but if someone buys a WP7 device to replace their WinMo, that’s only one sale, right? Not market penetration at all.

    “Also, you credit Microsoft with 450 million customers. How many of those use iTunes vs how many use Windows Media Player?” Pretty sure the fact that Apple is now writing software that runs on Windows speaks for itself about the platform’s ubiquity. As WMP isn’t a paid (or even good) product, the comparison is pointless.

    “And no makers of PCs have yet sold a successful tablet.” Which means they never will, right? Especially when they change their game up significantly, offer a store with a transparent approval process, and take no cut for themselves.

    In any case, I’ll disagree with your assessment of Win8. From a developer’s standpoint, it’s huge. Also have to disagree with corporations not using Metro – plenty of corporations are now handing out iPads to execs just for show. Wouldn’t it be great if they could connect to more than one Exchange mailbox at a time? Oh, hey, Windows 8 will do that, and make it pretty too.

    “You are aware that Apple makes quite a bit more money than Microsoft these days, right?” Apple’s revenues just barely edged past Microsoft’s last year (MS had a record last quarter), and in terms of profits Microsoft still has the edge. Will a giant app/content store with a much better approval process than Apple’s make a difference? I think so. I regularly laugh at Ballmer’s “developers, developers, developers” spiel and associated mashups, but he had a point.

  • John E

    @ yogsodoth: i did just check the 9/1 Nielsen “market penetration” report as you suggest. go here:


    your WP7 has just a 1% share, not 9%. WinMobile – older phones obviously – still have 7%, but that is inevitably going down every year.

    you should take your own advice about fact checking.

  • vikram333

    @yogsodoth – WP7 does not have 9% market share according to Nielsen or anybody else. Stop making things up.

  • vikram333

    @ yogsodoth – And another thing, Apple in their last 4 quarters made just north of $100B dollars which is nearly 50% more than MSFT who did $70B. Apple was also more profitable.

    Stop making things up.