Everything is on the line with Windows 8 and Microsoft. It’s do or die, according to pundits. So goes the headline hyperbole.
But here’s the zinger: Dire make-or-break predictions for the launch of the latest Windows, tying it to the failure of Microsoft itself, have also greeted the releases of Windows 7, Vista, XP, Windows 98, and Windows 95.
A Windows OS launch just isn’t complete without an everything-is-at-stake-for-Microsoft prediction.
And this time around, the feeling that Microsoft is at the precipice of failure on the eve of releasing its latest operating system is no different, as the fear mongers would have you believe that the October 26 release of Windows 8 may be spookier than a Halloween thriller for Microsoft.
I agree that more than the usual is on the line for Microsoft with the release of Windows 8. The company is going all out, introducing the Windows 8 and RT OSs, an overhauled user interface, the Surface RT tablet, Windows Phone 8, and a bevy of upgrades to the back end for cloud services and mobile apps. Does the future of Microsoft rest on Windows 8’s success? According to many experts it does. At this point, who knows? This time they may be right.
Will Windows 8 topple Microsoft?
My personal favorite paranoid headline from the 2012 rollout is Forbes’s “Is Windows 8 going to kill Microsoft?” In the article itself, the writer, Forbes contributor Tim Worstall, doesn’t actually assert that Microsoft will go under; the headline is more trollish than anything. Instead, Worstall hypothesizes that, because Windows 8 looks different from Windows 7, “the very change [Microsoft is] bringing in means that people will be open to changing to a non-Windows platform.” For pure entertainment value, I like the headline better.
A more nuanced risk analysis comes from ZDNet’s Larry Dignan, who writes in “Microsoft: Radical shift to devices, risk ahead of Windows 8” that the Windows 8 launch represents Microsoft’s move from being a software company that earns the lion’s share of its revenue from software licenses to being a “devices and services company,” to quote Steve Ballmer.
The risk for Microsoft if it doesn’t adapt to change is that it might lose a portion of its 1.3 billion Windows users as Android smartphones and Apple tablets continue to transform the way people use computing devices. The challenge for Microsoft is to keep traditional desktop users happy while hoping that they migrate away from the desktop OS to Windows 8-powered gear—and not to those Android or Apple devices.
Windows OS sales in 2011 brought Microsoft $11.5 billion in revenue. If people forgo upgrading to Windows 8 or make the decision to buy a new Apple iPad instead of a Surface tablet, all of a sudden Microsoft is in trouble.
However, given that Microsoft makes the majority of its money from licensing software to businesses—it took in $24 billion in revenue and posted $15.8 billion in operating income in 2011—I’m not sure even sluggish sales of Windows 8 could topple Microsoft anytime soon.
This is just the most recent roundup of paranoia: Skeptics have been around ever since Microsoft released Windows 3.0 in 1990 and went head-to-head against IBM’s OS/2. But let’s begin our walk down Naysayer Lane in 1995.
Windows 95 is too powerful for its own good
The launch of Windows 95, on August 24, 1995, was supposed to spell doom for Microsoft because it was sure to motivate trustbusters within the U.S. Department of Justice to take crippling action.
The beef that the Justice Department had with Microsoft was a link on the Windows 95 desktop to the now defunct Microsoft Network. Remember when the mighty AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy online networks worried that such a link would give Microsoft an unfair advantage in online services?
The antitrust case will kill Windows 98
Let’s score a point for the doomsayers: They would be proven right about the antitrust hammer eventually, but they underestimated Microsoft’s resolve to fight the case in court.
On May 18, 1998, three days after Microsoft launched Windows 98, the Justice Department took the company to court. Newsweek ran the headline “Windows Under Attack.” Industry pundits piled onto the “Can Microsoft survive getting sued by the United States?” bandwagon.
For years, the sides were locked in a bitter antitrust case that centered on whether Microsoft had the right to favor its own Internet Explorer browser and software over rivals such as Netscape when it came to bundling software with its operating systems.
Windows XP’s lousy timing will be its demise
Three years later, Microsoft had survived the threat of being split into “Baby Bills,” and on October 26, 2001, the folks in Redmond officially launched Windows XP. The timing was not ideal, as the launch was a little over one month after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Microsoft held its launch event only four miles from Ground Zero, at the Marquis Theater in New York’s Times Square. In one article about that event, Bob Keefe of the Austin American-Statesman wrote:
Microsoft Officially Launches Windows XP in New York
Microsoft’s timing turned out to be terrible. Because of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the poor economy and other factors, the long-planned release could be anything but festive for Microsoft and many of its partners.
The economy and the questionable timing weren’t the only bad news for Windows XP’s launch. Paranoia about XP’s security and a built-in feature called Passport gave critics genuine reasons to slam the OS. Passport was a single-sign-on service that let you log on to a collection of websites without reentering your personal information. Hiawatha Bray, in aBoston Globe article titled “A Passport to Disaster,” wrote:
The anti-XP gripes are many and varied, but the most serious one involves Microsoft’s plan to build in a feature called Passport that could let the company collect large amounts of data about millions of computer users worldwide. Never mind any suspicions about Microsoft’s nefarious motives for building dossiers on all of us. It’s enough to recall that this is a company that can’t even write a reasonably secure e-mail program.
See on www.pcworld.com
Windows Phone 8? Don’t you mean Windows 8?
Windows Phone 8 is the next iteration of Microsoft’s smartphone operating system, due to be unveiled in late October. It’s a hugely important release, vital for the credibility of Microsoft in smartphones and for companies that are using Windows Phone 8 in their handsets – especially Nokia. It’s part of a series of linked product launches, along with Windows 8 and the Surface tablet, through which Microsoft is strengthening the connections between its smartphone, desktop and tablet offerings.
So what’s new?
From an engineering point of view, the biggest change is that Windows Phone 8 is based on the same core technologies that underlie Windows 8. By switching to the Windows NT core, the phone and the desktop and tablet operating systems will share a common networking, security, media and web-browser technology, and a common file system.
That approach should make it easier for developers to reuse Windows code on Windows Phone – in turn making it more attractive to develop for the smartphone.
What about new features?
Windows Phone 8 also supports multi-core processors, plus two new screen resolutions -1,280×768 and 1,280×720. It supports removable MicroSD cards and NFC wireless sharing, which can be used for sharing photos, Office docs, and contacts by tapping a Windows Phone 8 handset against another NFC-equipped device.
The new operating system will also come with Internet Explorer 10, the same browser used by Windows 8 PCs and tablets, plus a digital-wallet feature to store debit and credit cards, coupons and boarding passes – somewhat like the iOS6 Passbook.
When paired with a secure SIM the wallet app can also be used for mobile payments. Windows Phone 8 also builds in Nokia mapping as part of the platform, which could give it another boost following the iOS6 maps debacle. Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows 8 but not the other way around.
Updates will be delivered wirelessly over the air, and Microsoft said it will support devices with updates for at least 18 months from device launch.
So what will make Windows Phone devices stand out?
The Start screen for Windows Phone 8 is probably one of the standout features. The Live Tiles concept that came out of Windows Phone 7 returns, but with additional colours and sizes, so users can customise their Start screen – for example, by making the email tile larger or the text tile smaller.
In fact, the Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 user interfaces are very similar, which just emphasises how Microsoft is thinking about its device and operating system portfolio in a much more interconnected way.
Windows 7 phones will get the new Start screen as part of a 7.8 update sometime after Windows Phone 8 is released – but Windows Phone 7 devices themselves cannot be upgraded to Windows Phone 8, which has been the source of some dismay.
What about the apps?
No smartphone can prosper without a significant array of apps. Microsoft said in June that there were already 100,000 apps on the Windows Phone Marketplace, with another 200 new titles being added each day.
Windows Phone 8 also includes a number of updates of interest to developers. Microsoft said Windows Phone 8 has C and C++ support, making it easier to write apps for multiple platforms more quickly. It also means Windows Phone 8 supports popular gaming middleware such as Havok Vision Engine and Autodesk Scaleform, as well as native DirectX-based game development.
It will also allow in-app purchases, and integrated VoIP calls. Improvements to multitasking will allow location-based apps such as exercise trackers or navigation aids to run in the background.
What about business users?
Microsoft has been keen to tout the business-friendly aspects of Windows Phone 8, to lure in those IT departments that are fed up with supporting Androids and iPhones and yearn for something that plays nicely with their existing infrastructure.
As such, Windows Phone 8 boasts technology to encrypt the entire device, including the operating system and data files. It supports the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface secure-boot protocol and features improved app sandboxing, so the phone is better protected from malware with multiple layers of security. It also includes remote-management tools and allows companies to set up their own hub for custom employee apps.
So what about the handsets?
While the new OS hasn’t been formally unveiled, handsets running on it are already being showcased – for example, Nokia’s Lumia 820 and its flagship 920. The phone boasts a 4.5-inch TrueBlack display and dual-core Qualcomm S4 Snapdragon processor, plus Nokia’s PureView software, and wireless charging.
Other handset makers have shown off their devices. Samsung unveiled its ATIV S handset featuring 1GB of onboard RAM, and 8MP autofocus rear camera and 1.9MP front-facing camera, and a choice of 16GB or 32GB versions, both with MicroSD. Also last month HTC showed its Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S.
Are people really ready to buy Windows Phone devices?
Right now Windows Phone is a smartphone minnow. According to figures from analyst firm IDC, in August it had about a 3.5 per cent market share, compared with Android’s gigantic 68 per cent of the market, and the 17 per cent held by iOS devices. But it is making headway, closing the gap on BlackBerry.
Microsoft and its partners will be hoping the renewed emphasis on design – through features such as Live Tiles – will attract the consumer audience which have so far snubbed Microsoft.
IT directors will want to see how deep the integration is between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. For Microsoft getting this right is vital. It’s part of a broader strategy that encompasses tablets through Surface and PCs through Windows 8, and is key in presenting consumers and businesses with an entire hardware ecosystem that they can buy into – as well as fighting off the threat from Apple and to a lesser extent Google.
But success in the consumer market is absolutely essential here, but it’s also vital for partners such as Nokia, which have bet heavily on Windows Phone 8’s success.
See on www.techrepublic.com
Microsoft’s attempts to crack the mobile market have thus far failed.
The latest comScore data shows it is still losing marketshare in the U.S., even with critically acclaimed phones from Nokia. It’s in fourth place, behind Research In Motion, and far behind Apple and Android who are running away with the market.
As a result of being backed into a corner, it apparently now feels the need to make its own smartphone, putting it in direct competition with its most important mobile partner, Nokia, as well as other manufacturing partners like HTC and Samsung.
Our snap reaction to Microsoft’s decision to make its own phone is that it’s a big mistake. On further reflection, we think it makes sense. Microsoft is pretty much screwed either way, so it might as well go down swinging and make its own phone.
We laid out the reasons for Microsoft to skip making its own phone. They’re pretty straightforward, and obvious.
The main point is that Microsoft’s smartphone partners are making really good phones. The Lumia 920 looks great. The HTC Windows Phone 8X also looks like a solid phone. This is the key difference between the smartphone market and the tablet market. Microsoft’s computer partners were not going to make great tablets, therefore it had to build the Surface. With smartphones, Microsoft doesn’t have to make a phone. It can trust its partners to make good hardware.
This argument is weak, though. As long as Microsoft makes a phone that’s as good as Nokia and HTC, then that’s good enough.
Smartphones are all quickly reaching the point of parity on the specs level. The difference in performance between a Samsung Galaxy S III and an iPhone 5 is negligible.
It all comes down to the look of the hardware, the software, and the marketing of the phone. If Microsoft can make a good looking phone that competes with its partners, then markets it well, the Microsoft has as good a chance as anyone.
But won’t Microsoft infuriate its partners? We’ve got two words to say about that: Who cares.
Nokia decided to bet the company on Windows Phone software. It has no choice but to work with Microsoft. HTC just made a huge investment in Windows Phone, building the 8X from scratch. It’s not going to throw in the towel on that effort right away. Plus, HTC isn’t exactly doing all that well with just Android. It needs Microsoft.
Besides, the entire idea of competing with partners is overblown. Imagine if Apple suddenly had a change of heart and decided to license iOS to anyone in the world. Do you think HTC, Samsung, and even Nokia, would pass on using iOS because Apple makes iPhones? Of course not. Those companies would immediately jump at the opportunity because iOS is good software people love.
If, against all odds, Microsoft builds a phone, and it’s a smash hit, it’s good news for HTC and Nokia. It means consumers want Windows Phone 8 software. Nokia and HTC will be able to go to consumers with alternative options to Microsoft’s phone.
There’s another reason for Microsoft to do its own phone. The Windows business model that once made Microsoft the most valuable company in tech doesn’t work in mobile. It can’t charge partners $80 for Windows Phone software. It charges much less, thus making less money. If it can sell phones, and copy the Apple model of charging carriers $600 for a phone that sells for $200, then it could net $400 per phone, which is obviously much better.
Most importantly from Microsoft’s perspective, the Nokia and HTC phones are not working. We can’t emphasize this enough. We want to shout it: Microsoft’s current plan is not working!
So, it can stick with Nokia and HTC because it doesn’t want to hurt their feelings, or it can strike out on its own and take a chance building and marketing its own phone.
When you think about it like that, Microsoft making its own phones isn’t a crazy decision, it’s Microsoft’s only decision.
See on www.businessinsider.com