There's no denying that at the moment, Microsoft is in a tough spot. Worse still, it's in a tough spot thanks to more than one product or platform. For now, the company seems to be recovering well enough from the Xbox One debacle from last month, but things are a little more questionable on the Windows side.
While things could change in the future, the Windows RT platform has proven to be an absolute failure up to this point. Last week, Microsoft suffered a $900 million writedown on Surface RT; the company had expected to sell a lot more units, and personally, I'm not sure why. With the Windows world having revolved around x86 code for as long as it's existed, it seemed unlikely to me that a move to an ARM platform was going to prove successful. After all, Microsoft was in effect tossing the traditional Windows experience out the window with RT.
Unfortunately for Microsoft (and those who've purchased a Windows RT device), the number of apps even eight months after the OS' launch remains highly limited. Here's a good example of that: only now is Facebook preparing to release an app for the platform. Of all the companies out there, you'd think Facebook would be one of the first out of the gate with an app - given the company wants to be on everything.
I'm not a great analyst, but if I had to predict whether or not Windows RT will last, my answer would be a resounding "no". A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft shaved $150 off of its Surface RT pricing, placing its 32GB model at $350. At this price-point, it competes with one of the hottest tablets on the market, Apple's iPad mini, which sells for $429 for the 32GB model, or $329 if you can deal with only 16GB.
If Windows RT is to succeed in the end, the prices of the devices need to be more attractive. In reality, prices should have been where they are right now from the start. After all, Apple already had a proven platform; Microsoft was only starting out. Had Surface RT cost $350 last fall, I am very confident that more people would have been willing to take a chance, and Microsoft may have hit its overall sales targets. Better still: had that success happened, more app developers might have taken the platform more seriously. It would have been a win/win all-around.
That's Windows RT - what about Windows in general? Tablets are big business at the moment, but Windows tablets are not. Both Apple and Google dominate the market here, and generally speaking, most people don't use a tablet to use a full-blown OS. Instead, they expect a limited environment, a simpler one, where they can just fiddle around with apps, get some things done but over all just "consume" rather than create. A notebook, with greater performance, is much more ideal for a proper desktop OS experience.
Given that, it makes sense to believe that Windows RT was a good idea. If Apple and Google are offering limited-function OSes for mobile platforms, then why not release a Windows OS with the same goals? Microsoft did do that, so what's the problem? Execution, plain and simple. Microsoft released a new platform, confused consumers about what it was, and then priced it too high. The company might have been able to get away with this years ago, but when Android and iOS are so well-refined at this point, and have massive app marketplaces to boot, it's easy to see why Microsoft had so little success with Windows RT up to this point.
In our look at Windows 8.1, posted earlier this month, I talked about an obvious issue with Windows 8 at the moment:
"What Windows 8 really needs now to succeed is improved developer support. The Store for Windows 8-specific apps is still littered with middling and sub-par apps, and that's not a great thing. Things are undoubtedly improving, but I do feel that some developers are doing little to help the OS. Instead, it seems like some developers just rush an app out the door, just to put something in the store, and then forget about it. That's hardly a healthy thing to occur when Microsoft's greatest interest is developing a rich ecosystem a la Google's Play Store or Apple's App Store. Hopefully, these improvements will happen sooner rather than later."
If Windows 8 is lacking apps (as in, those used through the Modern UI), then that should explain just how bad the situation is with Windows in general. Microsoft hasn't effectively sold the masses on Windows 8, and while it's improving things with 8.1, it's hard to say if that's going to be enough.
Microsoft needs to take a hard look at things, and (ideally) begin listening to its customers. When your customers are not happy, that's a problem, and bad business. Years ago, the company could have easily gotten away with some of its recent moves, but with the unbelievable competition that exists today, the company has to learn how to better cater to the market and consumer sentiment. We learned a couple of weeks ago about about some major restructuring going on within the company, so maybe this is the point-in-time when things could start to turn-around. Windows is hardly dead by any stretch, but it's clear that it's going to be dwarfed by competing platforms sooner than later if Microsoft doesn't successfully change the course it's been traveling on for a while.
So it's like Vista all over as again? I think Microsoft will be fine.
Nobody seems to remember Windows NT for the MIPS platform or DecAlpha for that matter.. Granted that CPU was a niche product and getting slaughtered by the AMD, Cyrix, Intel bringings but Consumers had a choice .. it was just a development nightmare.. Don't expect any different with WindowsRT.
Very nice analysis, Rob. I agree with all the major points...
...except for the xbox one, of course (but I understand an opening paragraph has to come from somewhere).
I think a swing from a 3:1 pre-order/public opinion deficit to 2:1 (an indication the reversal helped in public opinion, but their platform is still behind) isn't exactly spectacular.
I think the interesting thing is to get back on even keel, if not pull ahead of the competition, they need to do EXACTLY the same things you mentioned regarding tablets and mobile in general. We are certainly on the same page regarding their problems across new platforms. If they were to drop the price (cheaper than ps4 without the Kinect most people don't want?) and open up development/publishing of apps/games for the system to at least parity with the competition while having those people releasing products on the system either out-the-gate or very early in the cycle...it could be a winning combo.
Be it corporate ineptness (old-think), arrogance (they've been on top so long), or just the slow turning radius of such a huge ship to adapt to the new reality, things need to change at Microsoft or the world will change to one with them in a significantly smaller role.
Bring back the start button and it will be the best windows today.
I understand what they tried to do but windows users like options, putting in metro and forcing it is what pissed people of. The os itself is fantastic.
As for the Surface I like it, better then android and ipad however im not one for 50 million apps I will use once and then never use it again. I think the atom tablets are the step in the right direction.
Everyone remember when xbox came out? it will fail... its to late.... it wont be last... Playstation is the best..... Now look at it 30 months as the top selling console.
Honestly Windows 8 may be a little less well received... but there isn't really a good alternative at this point. At least not if we're talking gaming.
I really want to see Linux gaming get off the ground. But here I am running Ubuntu and about the only option I have is games made by Valve. :)
So Windows is a great platform with tremendous software. I think the competition has to make some steps forward though.
Their blatant disregard for the feedback from their customer base put a real damper on any MS love I was feeling.
Combine that with the fact that Windows-7 was (and still is) a great OS, and nobody should be surprised that Win-8 dropped like a smelly turd.
Somebody at Microsoft came up with an idea that was designed to capitalize on Apple's iSuccess with their online stores. They went hell-bent for leather with it, and damn whatever people said about not liking it.
Now it's blown-up in their faces.
If Microsoft would stop worrying about what Apple is up to and copying them I think they would be better off in the end. Microsoft's strengths are different then Apple's strengths.
i would say yes and no. yes its like vista because it seems to be not doing so well and is not well received by a lot of people. however on that note i say no because it still has the desktop mode and of course supports all standard windows .exe files and ect. so its like windows 7 while having a worse secondary option.
yep i completely agree. I think the metro UI of windows 8 should be more like a launcher that i can at least disable if not remove completely but again its trying to be an actual desktop os with all the apps and everything but to be honest i dont use the metro UI much at all. Im always in the desktop mode. Yes please bring back my start. I can now see why it frustrates people. Its more complicated than it should be to add something to my desktop and im now forced to use the metro ui to do it.
they should redo this whole metro UI thing and not make it so required on my system. forcing me to use it at every chance they get
Probably one of the smartest things they can do is to re-launch XP. Keep it the exact same except give it direct x 12+, have it with all the features, side bar, 3d flip..ect, but keep the win32 kernel instead of the stupid unix minwin kernel. They do that, I can almost promise that their ratings will go up.
Windows RT is dead cause Microsoft caved in to Intel's demand to cut Windows Software support, which Microsoft had already working!
I don't know what kind of threats or begging Intel employed, but they did not want to have to compete with ARM in the Wintel space, it would bring down their lofty margins and cost sales to boot.
But with Microsoft's decision not to support regular Windows applications, they might as well have tried to sell BeOS. Nobody buys an OS because it has colored tiles. People buy an OS because of software that runs on it. So RT was dead before it was ever released.
Microsoft's bad luck was that there weren't enough ditzy, incompetent people around to snap up Microsoft's useless RT tablets. Microsoft's surface commercials featured people dancing outdoors, so all the ditzy people who could have salvaged RT with their aimless, impulsive Walmart purchases probably thought it was a hardware based dancing instructor, thinking "I gotta have that!!! ...oh wait, its more than $49?"
Last I checked, Windows 8 sales and adoption rate is about half of what Vista was. This looks to be worse than Vista, but I agree, they'll realize they messed up and try and fix it.