Microsoft’s operating systems are the most ubiquitous in the world, but the company has not only had its successes, like XP and Windows 7, but its failures too – remember Vista? There’s an unspoken rule that if Microsoft’s last OS was a hit, the next will be a complete and disastrous miss. Although Windows 8 is still in beta, volunteer testers are already reporting many issues with the new OS. Will Microsoft respond to user complaints and fix the known problems before the full public release? Or will it once again fail to shake the alternating trend of hits and flops?
Microsoft Enters Mobile Hardware World
The introduction of Windows 8 is accompanied by the launch of Microsoft’s first foray into the world of mobile hardware: the Surface tablet. Surface was unveiled on Monday 18 June to mixed reactions. Some critics are skeptical about Microsoft’s ability to break into the mobile computing market currently dominated by Apple.
Surface and Windows 8
Windows 8 and Surface are made for each other. The first tablets will run a light version of Windows 8, featuring a tablet-optimized version of Microsoft Office and a range of apps available from the Windows store. Later models will run Windows 8 Pro, which will support “digital inking” – a method of writing on the screen using a digital Stylus pen. Microsoft promises that Windows 8 will offer unprecedented precision and smoothness for on-screen writing.
Release Dates Are Looming
Windows 8 is expected to be released to manufacturers at the end of July 2012 in preparation for the public release predicted to follow in October, which means that Microsoft doesn’t have much time left to fix bugs. Volunteer beta testers of Microsoft’s newest OS have reported many problems, ranging from widespread printer and other peripheral incompatibilities to not being able to remove it from their computers when they want to switch to something else.
Many Problems to Still Fix
This is worrying news for Microsoft. Hardware compatibility problems were the nail in the coffin of Windows Vista. Let’s be fair: Vista had a lot to recommend it, such as the new search function, which made it much easier for users to locate files on their machines. But when users found that their existing hardware wouldn’t work with Vista, they quickly became disgruntled. Before long, customers were asking for the option to downgrade to XP.
A particular complaint from beta testers is that the desktop version of Windows 8 looks too much like a smartphone interface. The disappearance of the Start button and the Control Panel have left many testers feeling frustratingly out of control. With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to convince us to use apps rather than traditional software. As with any radical change, this is likely to take some time to catch on.
Users with touchscreen monitors were expected to benefit from new features of Windows 8, but reports from beta testing show that the performance is disappointing. The new OS is optimized for the five-point touchscreen of the Surface tablet, but most touchscreen laptops and desktop monitors use two-point technology and so aren’t able to take full advantage of the new features. In this respect, Windows 8 could be ahead of its time.
500,000,000 Million Users?
Microsoft’s CEO predicts that Windows 8 will have half a billion users by the end of 2013. Is he correct? The answer to that question depends largely on the success or failure of Surface, as there is currently little to incentivize desktop users to switch to Windows 8.
Uptake of Windows 8 may be hampered by the success of Windows 7. A record number of users made the switch from Vista as soon as Windows 7 was released. With early reviews of Windows 8 being far from enthusiastic, these users are unlikely to be convinced of the benefits of upgrading again. This complacency could lead to the continuation of Microsoft’s alternating hit/flop trend.