Is Microsoft Purposely Driving Away Customers with Windows 8?

There has been a lot of hatred for Windows 8 online lately from some poorly informed websites. This hatred is seated in the fact that Microsoft has made some major mistakes in their release of Windows 8 on both the hardware and software front. First, Microsoft focused far too many resources on the development of Windows 8 RT and from our conversations with hardware vendors, neglected the traditional PC market who would make Windows 8 ultimately successful.

Microsoft spent far too much time and effort on trying to make Windows 8 RT work and to launch at the same time as regular Windows 8. The problem with this is that Microsoft only really had two major partners in Windows 8 RT in Qualcomm and Nvidia. These two companies are realistically the only two ARM SoC vendors that are capable of shipping a windows-basedtablet running an ARM SoC. Why was Windows 8 RT so important to Microsoft? While we can’t 100% confirm this fact, it was quite clear that Windows 8 RT was Microsoft’s reaction to the Android and iOS growth on ARM devices. Once Microsoft’s most cherished hardware partner, Intel, started to get involved in Android, it became clear that Microsoft needed to expand their operating system’s hardware base. By expanding beyond Intel x86 and AMD x86, Microsoft believed that they could increase their install base to tablets that were running on Qualcomm and Nvidia.

The problem with this strategy is that Microsoft neglected their most experienced partners and eventually ended up causing them not to really be ready until well after the official launch of Windows 8. When Windows 8 launched on October 26th, the real truth was that nobody was really ready. Yes, many of them had products out the door and ready for sale, but many of them ended up releasing rolling updates on the devices with new drivers and firmwares. Additionally, Microsoft quietly did lots of patching on the OS and generally tried to play down the fact that the hardware and drivers simply were not ready yet.

Back in December, we reviewed two Windows 8 tablets, comparing Windows 8 x86 and Windows 8 RT.

Now that Windows 8 has had some time to mature, most of the growing pains for standard versions of Windows 8 have been ironed out. However, Windows 8 RT had greater growing pains than regular Windows 8, and to this point is still suffering from them. Qualcomm was originally chosen by many vendors to be the SoC of choice, but eventually failed to deliver a product that actually worked. There were numerous designs that involved Qualcomm SoCs that simply never materialized as a result of not having mature drivers for Windows. Microsoft even sent a team of engineers down to Qualcomm to help resolve the driver issue just so that they could have a somewhat timely launch.

As a result of this screw up, many companies either ended up going with Nvidia designs and Nvidia’s tablets were touted initially as the best Windows 8 RT tablets. This is partially the reason why we see Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet running anNvidia Tegra 3 instead of a Qualcomm SoC. If you look at the overall state of Windows 8 RT tablets, you can see that there are basically four Windows 8 RT tablets. Those tablets are: Microsoft Surface RT, Dell XPS 10 Tablet, Samsung ATIV and ASUS VivoTab RT.

Other than those four tablets, everyone else has gone for Intel-based x86 designs. This means that those tablets will have nearly fully app compatibility with apps from Windows 7 and Vista. Furthermore, there is no need to worry about an app store on the part of the manufacturers as they can rely on more apps in the app store for x86 as well as the ability to essentially download any executable from any website and run it and install it. This difference was recently shown in our review of the ASUS VivoTab RT versus the Acer Iconia W510. The Acer runs an Intel chipset, while the ASUS runs an Nvidia chipset. As a result, I could not run apps like Spotify or Chrome on it like I could on the Acer tablet, this ruined the experience. Not to mention, my Windows 8 x86 tablet worked with my network printers while my RT tablet didn’t. In my opinion, if Windows wants to compete against Android, iOS and others in the tablet market they have to operate like a desktop would in terms of compatibility but still have an intuitive touch interface.

As we’ve seen from OEMs’ reactions, some of them are simply dropping entire products that involve Windows 8 RT from the US (like Samsung).

Now, looking forward to Windows 8 as a whole, we see that Windows 8 had some fundamental issues in terms of forcing people into a new user interface and making people figure out the new way around Windows. Because of this, Microsoft is effectively throwing away almost 20 years of user experience with essentially the same UI and nobody is happy. Windows 8 is now the de facto new operating system for the majority of PCs but the majority of those PCs are not yet touch enabled. When you take into account that not all computers are touch, while Windows 8 was designed for touch, we already begin to encounter problems. Microsoft, instead, should have enabled an option for OEMs and users to retain their old Windows UI with some features being locked into the new UI. By allowing people to use their desktops as their default UI, they would solve some of people’s biggest gripes about Windows 8.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about the Windows 8 UI when their desktop or laptop was not touch enabled. A simple hardware check on Windows should decide whether or not to enable the new Windows UI. Microsoft’s approach to Windows 8 was too uniform and alienated broad segments of the market that want nothing to do with the new UI. The only thing that we can say here is that we don’t necessarily recommend you buy a Windows 8 device unless you have a touch screen or a special touch pad.

Microsoft’s own decision to launch hardware to compete with their customers in the Surface and Surface Pro also didn’t help the Windows 8 situation. Microsoft spent precious resources on building and optimizing their own hardware and drivers instead of helping their customers make sure that they were able to deliver a bug-free, solid experience. As such, many initial Windows 8 devices had lots of driver updates and bug fixes from the get go. Microsoft’s obsession with building their own hardware ultimately may have been what bit them in the ass with Windows 8.

By building their own hardware, Microsoft also made many of their software partners further explore Windows alternatives rather than double down on Windows. Microsoft’s Windows 8 strategy seems like a schizophrenic situation, where by one end they are trying to pull in more hardware partners with Windows 8 RT and on the other, pushing them away by building their own hardware.

Windows 8 is not Microsoft’s best operating system, probably their worst. Windows 8 represents the retardation of trying to unify mobile with the desktop all while trying to deal with human interfaces like touch and gesture. Microsoft did an admittedly poor job with Windows 8, but they still have a chance to save face with updates and giving users what they want (like a start button). Will the fix Windows 8 or just release a new version quicker than usual? Time will tell.

How Apple ruined Apple

The facts were that Mac cloners had to buy most of their components from Apple (like motherboards) in order to be licensed by Apple to build clones in the first place. The Mac clone companies also had to abide by a set of miserly regulations benefiting Apple directly that non-Mac (the “IBM PC” clone markets) clone companies were never burdened with.

What was incredibly embarrassing for Apple is even with Apple calling the shots and regulating the Mac cloners egregiously, the company could not build better boxes at better prices–the Mac cloners were far better business people than Apple. What you have heard is merely Steve Jobs’ rationale for killing off Mac cloners and ensuring that Apple’s share of the market would always be 5% internationally–forever.

Mac clone companies accomplished all of what they accomplished in two years (2)–and then Apple with Jobs back at the helm killed them off and reversed all forward progress in that direction. Interestingly enough, by way of contrast, it took Dell over a decade to become the powerhouse clone company it became. Two years for Mac clones was not enough time for the clone companies to get their feet wet, let alone grow the Apple market to a size larger than Apple could support by itself–which was the whole idea behind cloning in the first place.

Flash forward to today–Apple’s OS X boxes are still at ~5% of the worldwide market–just where they were when Jobs killed the clone companies. If not for cell phones and mp3 players, Apple would have become extinct! What did Jobs do for the Mac or for OS X (the next version of his failed NeXT OS)? Just about nothing, is what. His focus since he returned to Apple was to diversify Apple away from the Mac. His attitude about the Mac and Apple’s OSes was self-fulfilling prophecy, as in “We lost that battle long ago” quote, unquote (the “battle” for the mainstream consumer and business computer marketplaces.) Jobs didn’t just kill the Mac clone companies–he more or less killed “the Mac” as well. What is a “Mac” today if not an x86 PC clone running an x86 OS–OS X? And, let’s not forget that today’s Mac running boot-camp can boot to Windows natively, too (which was untrue of any previous Mac in Apple’s history)!

The thing Jobs could not abide during his Apple tenure was competition. If he found himself in a competitive situation his instinct was to sue and then run to try and place Apple in a market with little to no competition–which he did first with mp3 players and then with smartphones.

If Cook stays true to Jobs’ product philosophy, what he’ll do is to try and invent another fad for Apple products and slowly but surely move away from all the areas in which Apple faces mounting competition right now–mp3 players are already pretty much “toast” as a market, Apple is getting squeezed hard in the smartphone markets, and who knows whether the touch-screen tablet market is anything more than a short-lived fad?

So, the question is where will Apple go next? Smart TV? Smart refrigerators and ovens? Who knows. It’s too bad that Apple wrote off the Mac so many years ago as a dead-end for the company. Now Apple is nothing but another “me, too” x86 clone company. There are those who cherish Apple today for its share prices, and those who cherished Apple for the Mac (back when Apple was known as “Apple Computer.”) I’m certainly not in the first group, nor the second, really. But of the two I have a lot more respect for the second group!