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Pop Quiz: When was the last good Windows release?

Can Microsoft Deliver? < This was the headline from one of my tech feeds. I laughed when I read it.

"Um, on what?" I can only assume they are talking about Win 9, the hail-mary of Windows updates that may bring the entire peecee business out of the backwash that is Win 8.

When we look at the Windows release history we see that they get about ever-other-one right. 97-good-ME-bad-XP-good-Vista-bad-7-good-8-really bad. The entire industry hangs its hope on the next release of Windows. If you doubt the devastating drop Win 8 has had on the entire industry, go Google it yourself. Or just go visit any major hardware manufacturer’s site and notice how prominently they display WIN7 systems still available. So let’s assume that WIN8 was as bad as suggested. What was the biggest mistake?

WIN8 should’ve been the OS for the Microsoft Surface computer, not for everyone. In a word METRO. While Microsoft was hoping to take their tired interface a step forward with Metro, what they did was destroy the traditional Windows interface for a "tablet oriented" and "touch-screen friendly" interface. See, Windows was having a problem on tablet computers. And not just the Apple iPad problem. Windows sucked on tablets. See, the little pull-down menus and overall system flow of Windows had nothing "touch" about it. And WIN7, while bringing us out of the Vista dark ages, and finally convincing IT departments world-wide to begin the forced-upgrade from XP, WIN8 stopped that success cold.

IT in every major company answered the question of migration to WIN8 with a resounding NO. And it’s not me that’s saying this. This is the research. If you can’t get the IT departments to migrate, of say Dell, you’re going to have a hard time convincing Dell to recommend WIN8 to their customers. I mean, that’s a bit like recommending an Android phone to your clients while using an iPhone.

Okay, so WIN8 sabotaged the entire enterprise growth market that was beginning to happen with WIN7. Why. What did Microsoft have to gain by forcing Metro on all of us? I think they just misjudged their customer. Either that or they said, "We’ll do something so cool, everyone will love it."

And even as the pre-release reviews were consistent with the marketplaces future reaction, Microsoft pressed on. And WIN8 was born and hoisted as the NEW WINDOWS paradigm. Except there was only one big problem. A huge majority of people using Windows, and potentially upgrading to WIN8 or buying a new laptop or desktop, were not using touchscreens. Microsoft forced (or tried to force) a tablet-touch-oriented interface (Metro) down the throats of all of us. Bad move. And a typical Microsoft slip.

Microsoft has a history of ignoring customer complaints and going their own way. And with WIN8 they did their best PR/Marketing "build it, ship it, and make it so" effort. Except the marketplace, and the IT departments world-wide finally said NO. Just like they had with Vista before. And this time it was even worse than Vista. Sure, Microsoft could fiddle with the early numbers, like they always do, and count all Surface computers manufactured as "shipped WIN8 systems." And like they did with Vista, at Dell, they could count every sale of a Windows system as a WIN8 sale, even if the customer was paying the $50 downgrade fee to get WIN7 installed. But this time the PR games didn’t work.

Nothing worked. WIN8 was a dud. And even Windows loyal, Windows evangelists started saying, "Stay away from WIN8." And thus we find ourselves in today’s situation. A lot of people are praying that WIN9 will get it right.

Here’s Dell’s Laptop OS Option Screen:


Here is HP’s OS config screen:

And if they can continue their "every other release is a good one" track record we might be in for some help. And more fundamentally, if they listen to their customer feedback (big, enterprise, thousands of systems, customers) as they preview WIN9, perhaps we will see something as good or better than WIN7.

But if we look at Microsoft’s trust record in the marketplace we have to wonder.  Look at Internet Explorer, known officially as Internet Exploder and the worst browser on any platform, period. And the Windows phone OS, as bad as you think it might be, bolt Windows on a smaller screen and you end up wishing for something like Metro. And that’s what you have now.

And more than products or lies, it’s really Microsofts historical arrogance that is coming back to haunt them. Look at system updates and fixes. Why can’t Microsoft take the time, help the user, and create packages of updates? Even Android does a better job of this. Instead your Windows system, regardless of your preferences, it seems, will begin an upgrade, or a fix, or a download just as you are trying to shutdown to head for a meeting. "Don’t Shutdown Now." GRRRR.

And what about the predatory way Microsoft is still going after Java. They are still building IE specific functions that are created to specifically not work in Firefox or Chrome. And thus they keep the lock on Sharepoint users, or Enterprise VPN users, by requiring IE for successful execution of much of the Microsoft enterprise systems. Of course, the IT departments worldwide, primarily set up to fix and support Windows, are well aware of these draconian practices by Microsoft. And nobody is happy about it. But what can you do? If you’re Sharepoint systems only work 100% with IE, you use and reccomend IE. This is Microsofts "lock-in" strategy.

But they couldn’t bolt on Metro and get everyone to play along. In the end, Metro should’ve been an extension for WIN8 users running touchscreens. It should never have been released as THE Windows interface. Look at WIN8.1, the "fix." The main difference, they added the old Start Screen back, essentially allowing you to bypass Metro all together. Yay. But it was a back-ass way to get there. If they’d kept Metro to themselves and their Surface computing platform, they might’ve helped the entire industry.

So how long before the Microsoft technology lock is broken? We’ve got Android and Mac OS. We’ve got Google Docs that can read and write Office products. We’ve got superior hardware from every other manufacturer (though I hear the Surface Pro 3 is the best yet). What will have to take place for Microsoft to really begin to see a decline in revenue? That question is above my level of comprehension. But if they keep pulling boners like WIN8 it will be the large IT departments that signal the change, and not the consumer.

Best of luck on WIN8, I run WIN XP inside Parallels on a Mac. It’s better as an app, rather than an OS. (grin)

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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