For those of you who grew up in the 80’s, you probably remember the New Coke/Classic Coke controversy in which Coca-Cola, in an uncharacteristic like panic, abandoned the traditional Coca-Cola recipe that had been tried and true for decades and replaced it with New Coke. This move proved embarrassing and short lived as the old standby was quickly brought back only months later and branded as Coke Classic. Although Coke executives can clearly show the evidence even to this day to justify that fateful decision to release New Coke, the end result was a disaster, at least initially. On the other hand, Coke also regained their leadership role in the market once they brought back Classic Coke and haven’t looked back every since. In other words, maybe Coke knew what they were doing the entire time.
This classic business scenario comes to mind when I think about Windows 8 which might be the most controversial Windows operating system to be introduced as of yet. If you do remember New Coke, then you have been around for every Windows OS release as well. There have been great successes such as Windows 95/98, XP and Windows 7. There have been some disasters such as Millennium and Vista. Come critics are quickly labeling Windows 8 as the next Vista while others cite that this will be Microsoft’s ticket into the tablet market.
Just as Coke panicked over Pepsi, Microsoft is anxious about the tablet market that is currently dominated by I-Pad and Droid which is why Windows 8 is designed with the idea of finally making Microsoft a relevant player in this market. Critics argue that Microsoft has missed the boat on the tablet market and even if the Metro UI is everything it is cracked up to be, it is simply too late. But critics have argued for years that Microsoft was too late on the web browser, too late on Office applications, and they have been very wrong. Microsoft has repeatedly shown that it doesn’t pay to write them off.
The philosophy behind Windows 8 is to build the OS around a seamless experience for each of today’s three major device categories; PC/notebooks, tablets and smartphones. Whether you are on your Windows Smartphone or your desktop computer, the OS will look and operate in an identical fashion. What makes this possible is the new user interface called, Metro, that consists of scrolling tiles that smoothly interact with the touch of a finger. Unlike Windows 7, which was a desktop operating system that manufacturers tried to foist as a tablet OS, Windows 8 is ideally suited for the tablet market. I recently visited the Microsoft store and effortlessly navigated Windows 8 on a beautiful tablet. I’m also the proud owner of the Nokia Lumia 900 Windows 8 phone whose operating system is the predecessor of Windows 8 and I love it.
It’s easy to find critics spouting negative views and predictions about Windows 8 such as this article in ZDnet. The fact is that there are many good things about Windows 8 that are easy to ignore. The first is that it boots up super quick, less than ten seconds. It also hosts IE 10 which has some significant improvements over its predecessor. It also doesn’t require all new hardware so you don’t have to purchase a whole new PC if you’re already running Windows 7. Finally, Windows 8 will firmly launch Microsoft into the App Development and retail market which could give Microsoft a central place to bring all of its essential software under one roof and give the user a one stop shopping experience for Microsoft Software, much like Apple has enjoyed for years.
In the end though, Windows 8 may fall victim to the huge success of Windows 7 because if Windows 7 works so well for you, why upgrade and learn an entirely new operating system from the ground up? This in fact may be Microsoft’s biggest obstacle to overcome.
The point of this blog was to discuss the potential impact of Windows 8 and unless one has a crystal ball, this is one operating system that is tough to predict. Like new Coke, it could be an embarrassing flop that years from now will be discussed in MBA courses; an OS was quickly replaced by Windows 9. It could also be a brave step that in the end that firmly establishes Microsoft as a firm player in the tablet market. One thing is for certain, don’t underestimate Big Blue.
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