Windows 8’s success as a platform for traditional PC users and for tablet users is seen with huge skepticism from analysts at IDC, which predicts Microsoft’s desktop OS to be largely irrelevant to users by the time the platform launches sometime in 2012.
“Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor.”
Part of the reason is that the Metro UI may not add value to traditional desktop users. While the interface with its large, finger-friendly cubes that auto-update is a vast improvement for touch on tablets, desktop users using traditional input methods of a mouse or trackpad and keyboard will not derive added benefits.
Also of note, enterprise customers are usually laggards when it comes to updating their business machines. With many corporate customers in the process of upgrading to Windows 7 right now or have only recently finished the upgrade process, it’s unlikely that these IT departments will be upgrading to Windows 8 any time soon.
So while the Metro UI delivers value for tablets and touch input, IDC is also not very bullish on Microsoft’s prospects on the mobile computing space. Microsoft will face stiff competition from tablet market-leader Apple in the space and the growing number of Android competitors made by traditional PC-makers, like Asus, Acer, and Samsung.
“(T)here will be intense scrutiny on Microsoft’s ability to deliver a successful tablet experience aboard both x86-based tablets and on devices running ARM processors. This is a tall order for Microsoft, and while the x86 tablet strategy makes sense as a transitional solution for today’s PC users, it will be the ARM-based devices that need to shine and clear a high bar already set by Apple.”
With Windows 8, Microsoft has dual audiences with often conflicting needs. Consumer customers want simplicity, but enterprise users want legacy support with legacy apps built for the x86 architecture even as the company begins to broaden support of its OS to support ARM processor. With these needs in mind, Microsoft will have to build an OS with specs that would make Windows tablets affordable, but still deliver an uncompromised user experience especially when it comes to performance, battery life, and security.
Microsoft still has yet to announce full details of the platform, but when Windows 8 tablets do launch in 2012, it will have to compete against quad-core Ice Cream Sandwich tablets and a potential iPad 3 from Apple.