As the arguments rage over whether Windows 8 is awful or awesome, a question keeps going through my head. Will it make much difference to sales of the OS whether we like it or not? Vista was loudly and widely proclaimed to be a dog but hundreds of millions of copies were sold. Why? Because there was no choice. You wanted a new PC, you got Vista. The enterprise is all Windows. The computing world has been locked in the grip of Windows for years. Everybody uses Windows. The ecosystem of OEMs, software developers, retailers all depend on Windows. The mind-set that you have to use Windows is overwhelming. When there is a monopoly like that, does it make much difference what people say about Windows 8?
It is true that sales to the enterprise may be slow. But that is likely to be true irrespective of what is said about Windows 8. The economy has problems. And we are in the wrong part of the upgrade cycle. Windows XP hung around for a long time, partly due to Vista, and many businesses have only recently converted to Windows 7. Windows 7 works well so why would businesses and institutions want yet another change-over right away? Even if Windows 8 is great, enterprise sales may lag. This seems especially likely if Windows 8 is seen to be primarily a touch-oriented system. Having to buy new hardware and retrain all your staff is not an appealing prospect.
So it looks to me like a big part of the Windows 8 market will be the consumer who wants a new PC. They’ll get Windows 8 whether they want it or not. For a while, at least, the only possible challenge to the Windows consumer market is the iPad. How that goes depends very much on what kind of Windows 8 tablets the OEMs come up with. The next few months could be very interesting.
Originally posted, June 14, 2012