Windows 8 was a radical reinvention of the Windows interface — the first real change in many years for the world’s most widely used operating system — but it’s fair to say that it’s one that wasn’t met with quite as much enthusiasm as Microsoft probably hoped.
Windows 8 was built to both expand the existing (and massive) Windows market while taking on the tablet market at the same time. As desktop and even notebook sales have dropped, the slack has been taken up by tablets.
Microsoft, not surprisingly, makes very little out of tablet sales; while it has its own tablet in Surface 2/Surface Pro 2, sales there don’t appear to have been extensive, although it does oddly enough make money from patent licensing agreements from Android sales.
If you’re using Windows 8 on a touch-enabled device, once you get past the learning curve it can work quite well as a tablet-style experience; arguably a little less well as a pure productivity tool compared to a straight notebook/desktop experience. That’s been the real sticking point for Windows 8 adoption, due to the often confusing switch between traditional desktop applications and more touch-centric “Metro” apps.
It’s being reported that Microsoft will give its first peek at Windows 8’s successor in the middle of the year at its BUILD developer conference (http://winsupersite.com/windows-8/threshold-be-called-windows-9-ship-april-2015). Currently codenamed “Threshold”, what will most likely end up being called “Windows 9” is being touted as fixing up many of the issues that Windows 8 currently has, and in a rather rapid timeframe to boot.
It’s suggested that while what’ll be shown off this year will be early code, the timeline to get Windows 9 out the door will be very rapid, with the actual operating system being available in April 2015. That could always shift — as could the aims of the operating system and as such the features it has — but the smart suggestion has to be a mix of the metro-touch tiles, which do work once you learn the way that Microsoft thinks about such things — and the more traditional desktop metaphor.
Microsoft’s been down this kind of path before with releases of operating systems that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Windows XP was very well regarded, but its successor, Windows Vista was beset with problems that were only really fixed in the much later stages of that operating system’s lifespan, by which time Windows 7 was imminent. Years before that, Microsoft’s Windows ME (Millennium Edition) lasted only a single year in the market; it was intended to be a consumer-centric version of the code underlying Windows 98, but tanked badly because it was, frankly, terrible.
Windows 8 isn’t terrible, although there’s a fair amount of perception that it is. With a short timeframe to develop a new product — not impossible, but a tricky task for even a software monolith like Microsoft — it’ll be fascinating to see what Microsoft eventually does with Windows 8’s successor.