martedì 20 novembre 2012

Windows 8: will it succeed?

The much awaited new operating system Windows 8 has finally arrived. It has been officially launched on October 26, a date that certainly represents an important moment for Microsoft. However, many commentators suggest that the launch of Windows 8 could be a "fiasco".
Most PC owners are quite satisfied with Windows 7 and before migrating to the new system they will likely wait that all drivers and applications are compatible. A research from Net Application shows that the adoption rate of Windows 8 before the official launch is 5 times lower than that of Win7.

In the mobile and tablet market the situation is completely different. iOS and Android now dominate the market for smartphone operating systems (with a market share of over 75%). In Italy, Windows Phone reaches a market share of 10%. In the tablet market, competition is just as strong with the iPad likely to remain leader for a long time (forecasts for 2015 estimate the market share of Apple's operating system well over 50%) and Android tablets struggling to gain a foothold (recently Google itself decided to enter this market with the new Nexus devices). In particular, the 7-inch form factor is attracting the interest of all producers (Amazon, B & N, Google, Huawei, Samsung, etc..). So much so that Apple itself has presented a few days ago a new product for this sector, iPad Mini, which is expected to go on sale in early November.

Let's start by looking at the strengths of Windows 8:

  1. Ecosystem - Microsoft understood the importance of the ecosystem. Given that Windows Phone 8 comes from the same kernel as the desktop version it should be fairly easy to have applications that run on all platforms (desktop, tablet, phone) with minimal porting efforts. In fact, the introduction of Windows Runtime would provide a common architecture for all applications. This should make very attractive (at least in theory) the development of applications that can support both ARM and x86 architectures, working on each device and at the same time having access to all the app stores.
  2. Interface - The interface of Windows Phone 8, called Metro, does not differ much from that of his predecessor. The organization in animated frames ("tile") is very attractive from the graphical point of view (with the possibility to customize colors, backgrounds and animations), effective from the functional point of view (eg. weather forecast live in the box). In terms of fluidity, the Windows Phone operating system has high performance thanks to the optimized use of memory. Furthermore, the fact that Windows 8 will have the same interface for smartphones, tablets and PC is certainly an innovation and a huge step forward.
  3. Hardware - The technical specs of the first Windows 8 devices are quite remarkable. For the first time in its history, Microsoft will manufacture its own tablet device, Surface. The Touch Surface Cover Very is interesting and very innovative since it works as keyboard without bluetooth connections but through the magnetic connection that ties it to the tablet. Microsoft expects more than 1,000 products with Windows 8 will be launched in the coming year.

Moving to discussing the main weaknesses of Windows 8:

  1. Windows 7 - Microsoft's strategy for the mobile industry will strongly leverage on the integration with the desktop and game console (Xbox) world. However, this could be a tricky area for Microsoft. Windows 7 and Windows XP account for about 80% of the operating systems market and are perceived as very stable and mature. It will be difficult to convince mass consumers and businesses to migrate to Windows 8. Windows XP users (this OS will no longer be updated from April 2014) will most likely choose to adopt Windows 7 (more stable, mature and proven) instead of taking a risk with the newest system.
  2. BYOD - Microsoft will leverage on its strong presence in the corporate world to push adoption of the new operating system with the promise that tablets and smartphones equipped with Windows 8 will enable increased productivity due to the "almost" perfect compatibility with the desktop version. This hope, however, clashes with the widespread phenomenon of BYOD ("Bring You Own Device") which means the use of personal technological devices (typically tablets and smartphones) for carrying out work tasks. This phenomenon is highly popular among owners of iPad, iPhone and Android devices. Many companies have started to "tolerate" these behaviors (they remain banned in large corporations with tight IT security policies). This trend has definitely created a competitive advantage for Apple whose iPad and iPhone originally purchased for personal use have then entered extensively in the corporate world.
  3. Use - The stats on tablet usage show that most people make a "basic" use of these devices. For example, according to research from Nielsen, 2/3 of tablet owners use their devices while watching TV mainly for browsing on the internet or in bed to read ebooks. This means that most tablet users may not appreciate or perceive the value of Windows 8 features especially at a price in line with other products on the market.
  4. Applications - One of the main reasons that has slowed down the adoption of Windows Phone in recent years is certainly the lack of applications in comparison to its rival operating systems. iOS has about 650,000 iPhone apps and 250,000 specifically developed for iPad and Android has about 500,000 apps in its store (Google Play). Now, the comparison with the figures is somewhat disappointing for Microsoft since its Marketplace barely reaches 100,000 apps while only 3,500 will be available for the new Windows RT system.

You just have to see if it will be a success!

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