Thursday, September 15th, 2011 - OVUM
Richard Edwards, Principal Analyst, Ovum

Microsoft has launched Windows Developer Preview, a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for software developers. Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, talked about a reimagining of Windows, and how the company was building on the foundations of Windows 7 and its Windows Live services. 542 million people use Windows Live, but Microsoft now needs to find a way to derive some serious revenue from these users, and the best way to accomplish this is through apps.

With over 450 million copies of Windows 7 sold to date, Microsoft must now transition its desktop operating system to the world of tablets and slates. More than two thirds of PCs today are mobile devices (laptops, netbooks, notebooks, tablets and slates), and so it comes as no surprise to see that Microsoft has gone ‘all-in’ with a complete redesign of the Windows interface to cater for touch screens.

Scheduled for release in 2012, Windows 8 has a similar look-and-feel to Microsoft’s mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone 7, although users can switch back and forth to the classic Windows interface if they prefer. This is a bold move for Microsoft, as previously the company has tended to follow the market in terms of user interface design.

Microsoft says that Windows 8 will deliver richer security features, faster start-up times and longer battery life; it will also run on a wider choice of devices and chipsets – a major shift for Microsoft’s hitherto x86-only Windows operating system.

But in an app-centric, consumer-oriented world, Windows 8’s success will undoubtedly be measured by the revenue Microsoft drives through its new Windows app Store. We believe that making a success of the Windows Store will be a big challenge for Microsoft, but failure is not an option, as the company desperately needs to generate a new revenue stream as sales in other areas of its business decline.

Business users have seen the Apple iPad, Android tablets, and the BlackBerry PlayBook in the workplace, and are excited by these new form factors. But the only way to deliver traditional, Windows-based, line-of-business applications to these devices is by investing in expensive IT virtualisation technology, and so a Windows 8 touch-based slate PC could be a winning combination.

The corporate market is currently exploring the idea of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ and we believe that the timing of Windows 8 couldn’t be better. But can Microsoft and its Windows ecosystem deliver? If not, then it will probably be game-over for the Windows PC as we know it.


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