Windows Vista has been an epic failure for Microsoft and many commentators predict the same fate for Windows 8. While I’m not MS fan or hater I could see some interesting aspects here.
Both operating systems are replace very solid predecessors which make people and especially information technology administrators reluctant to change. XP was a breath of fresh air after very buggy millenium edition. The switch to NT kernel was probably one of the most important decision in the company history, while slower and less hospitable for programmers its stability found the way through the market. The fact that ME was based on 98 core made it even easier to kiss that foundation goodbye.
Windows 7 is for Windows 8 what XP was for Vista. It also replaced an OS that worked hard to earn its terrible reputation. It’s worth to keep in mind that Vista was actually very compelling product until it came out. The platform was design to satisfy both worlds, consumer and business segments of the market. Corporate division couldn’t pass by Vista vastly expanded security features with very granular user access control while home users were supposed to be attracted by very smooth, animated aero interface and highly friendly approach when operating the PC. It failed at the start for 2 reasons, the improved security had poor control over it resulting in multiple annoying prompts to complete a simple task. The other problem was the system appetite for resources resulting is sluggish performance even on high end hardware and show stopping dramas when it came to low end laptops.
Windows 8 is facing a different problem. The idea to develop an operating system that would serve all from phone, through tablet to a PC was so bold that even Apple didn’t go this path. Metro tile interface while appealing in smartphone and tablet feels like a misconception on a PC and complete misunderstanding when it comes to Windows Server 2012. The vendor decided to stand strong behind the idea until it cracked recently and decided to reintroduce the start button. I think this is a real act of despair by the management. First it shows lack of faith and commitment to once believed idea, something that proud Apple would never do and second it’s a bandaid solution for a bullet wound since it only calls the metro tiles instead of actual start menu that user expect to see when hitting the button.
It’s pretty sad that such as reputable software vendor with so many bright minds on board makes such simple mistakes as forcible introduction of a feature that I bet did miserable job in testing. Introducing a new product or attempting to set a new trend is alway a high risk operation but there are ways to mitigate the risk and failsafe and fallback mechanism in case of a failure. We know on the other hand from Blackberry example that hesitating to innovate or listen to the market expectations has even higher mortality rate.
So far Microsoft was able to learn a lesson from its own mistakes and every epic failure has been followed by a very solid piece of technology even if it wasn’t the most innovative one and I hope Windows 9 will be the same way.