Saturday, April 20, 2013

Microsoft hurt itself with Windows 8 (or did it?)

IDC's press release on April 10th suggests a decline of almost 14% in PC shipments in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same quarter in 2012 and, at the same time, the increase in the sale of tablets and smart phones. It also suggests that even the introduction of Windows 8 hasn't made any difference and, on the contrary, has slowed the market. The report continues to explain why:

The radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices. Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market.

Now, those of you whom follow Adaptive Path's UX Week might have come across "Story of Windows 8" by +Jensen Harris, director of program management for the Windows user experience team. His presentation is about design principles behind Windows 8. The core presentation starts with a key question that product managers of Windows asked themselves back in 2009 that "is familiarity always the element that keep a product relevant; a winner" (paraphrasing, of course) while admitting Windows (arguably) is the most familiar experience in the world. The presentation continues to demonstrate examples that suggest otherwise.

It doesn't take a market research expert to connect the dots in this case. Microsoft, I believe, had realized that the PC market was (and will be) challenged by emerging markets and in order to remain a major player it had to recognise the differences of experiences such as those between PC and tablet users. Whether they've predicted this loss is not known to me. I'm only going to guess that they have and have been working with their partners to innovate further, but maybe not so much in the PC market.

I personally like what Microsoft has done with Windows 8. Although the tactile experience is missing in PCs with traditional means of input (Keyboard and mouse), the craftsmanship as well as efficiency of Windows 8 is enough for me to have at least one copy at home.
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