Dear Microsoft, please get it right next time.
Posted by harrymonmouth
Microsoft currently have a mountain of a task ahead of them. The number of Windows versions in use at present displays a level of fragmentation that would make Android sit up and take notice. Despite the dropping of support for XP earlier this year it still accounts for a quarter of computers according to Micromart this week. This is not surprising considering that large enterprises that use hundreds or thousands of XP machines are able to pay extra to extend support. There are also a large number of home users that are not too keen on spending over a hundred pounds to get a new OS. I have a computer that still has XP on a partition because it is far more convenient for the support of older software and hardware. It also means that the computer in question cost less to buy than simply the disc for a new Windows 8 installation.
Anyone who has been a regular purchaser of computers will know that Microsoft have a reputation for releasing dud operating systems inbetween every decent OS. At the turn of the millenium they released such a dud that it has all but been forgotten. Ask most people what came before XP and their answer will probably be Windows 98. I have seen some machines that are still running the millennium edition. Perhaps they will have massive value for rarity, it certainly won’t be for memorability. After XP came Vista, an OS so universally hated that it currently only has 3% market share. I had one of the first laptops running Vista and it consistently took 15 minutes from pressing the power button before it would recognise that there was anyone present who wished to do any computing. Windows 7 was the rebound to an OS that was once again pleasant and useful. As I have aged it feels like no sooner was Windows 7 released than they brought out the current atrocity that is Windows 8.
Atrocity may be a bit harsh as the OS has been significantly improved since it was first released. It is actually the sort of OS I would be quite happy to use now if it weren’t for the fact that upgrading would cost me more than my desktop computer cost to buy. When it was first released it only cost £20 for the upgrade. Cynically I think that may be because it was so bad that they would really have needed to pay people to take it on. Certainly charging a cheap price wasn’t enough to stimulate take up as only around 12% of users are on Windows 8 compared to approximately half of users on Windows 7.
Microsoft are aiming to fix all this with Windows 9, which is due out late next year. It will be the unification of computer and mobile operating systems. It will also reverse all the mistakes that were made with Windows 8. Fingers crossed. Despite running betas and doing huge amounts of consumer surveys MS somehow managed to completely ignore everyone’s concerns with their last attempt at a new OS. It is almost as if they deliberately tried to create the worst possible OS because they knew that the Microsoft curse of the alternating success/failure would ruin it anyway.
It must be frustrating for MS when they see Apple release a new OS every year and the whole mac using clan clamour to get it so fast that the Apple servers clam up for the whole day. Once Windows 9 has been released it is my hope that Satya Nadella will learn from the past and will start releasing new operating systems in the same way that Apple do. Instead of releasing an OS so different that everyone hates it and no one knows how to use it. They could release new versions every year which change only just enough to include new and helpful features that people want to see. Instead of releasing an OS that has taken four or five years to develop for a week’s wages they could release an OS that has only taken a year to develop for the amount of cash you might spend in a couple of hours in the pub. That strategy seems to work for Apple. That is why almost everyone gets each new update. People even deliberately go and buy new machines just so they can get the new software update.
If the Windows user base started taking up new updates that consistently, MS would reap the huge benefit that almost everyone would be using just one version of their software. That has got to make support easier. The problem in the first place is that Satya Nadella is essentially beginning a new era for Microsoft software. In order to make it work he needs to get everyone on the same starting line. The people who are still clinging to XP are not going to drop £100 or more for Windows 9 if they didn’t for Windows 8. There are rumours that Windows 9 will be offered as a cheap upgrade for users of 8 but really it needs to be offered as a cheap purchase for all PC users. If it was £20 across the board then MS might succeed in getting most users to adopt the new OS when it is released. If it was free then they would have even more success. Once the vast majority of users have been converted the wise thing to do would be to adopt a release schedule closer to that offered by Apple and not try to reinvent computing with each new release. We may all benefit from change but it is in human nature to resist it.