Windows 8 concerns me greatly. It’s not that it’s the next thing that Microsoft wants to shove down our throats: I successfully avoided DOS, early Windows and Vista. That may seem like an odd list, but Microsoft created a fairly open platform in XP after it had beaten everyone out of its various protected areas (the office suite) and Windows 7 has been similarly good to most people.
But Microsoft is running scared again. They’re loosing control of the office and desktop suite from every direction. There is, of course, Google and Apple, but there are also Valve. The importance of the “desktop” is even giving way to the importance of entertainment (the flagship of which are games). Running scared brings out the worst in things. Microsoft running scared, with it’s enormous reserves of cash, is something to be nervous about.
Microsoft has already led with a strategic casualty with Windows 8. Nokia, which used to be a fine maker of phones, has nearly collapsed with their bet on Windows 8 phones. Microsoft has a history of destroying companies with phones, but Nokia tried it anyway. This disaster has taken Nokia from a top spot in the phone industry as a leader and maker of innovative products to a last place finish whose only strong products are about to be obsolete and forgotten in every market.
The success of Android (Google) and the ‘i’ devices (Apple) has been driven strongly by their use of an integrated store to allow easy purchase of “somewhat” safe software by consumers. Purchasing software has traditionally been difficult and this problem, in part, has aided the rise of internet applications — that don’t require purchasing or installation. While many applications sold in these stores could be delivered on the web, the option to go outside the browser and deal with a more integrated, powerful and featureful platform has led many developers to create profitable applications. This surge is pushed forward not just by consumer preference, but by the information that can be data-mined from the consumer while they use these applications.
While stories of these devices being hacked make the big headlines, the privacy violations and carte blanche offering of consumers as product to businesses hungry for their data are the real story. And while windows has been a open platform on which the industry (and possibly even society) has indeed profited, Windows 8 marks Microsoft’s desire to join this party.
Given Microsoft’s past record and Windows 8’s feature set, I am very concerned.