While some blame the economy, competition or technological change for the decline of Microsoft and its flagship operating system Windows, there is no doubt that Microsoft’s current offering, Windows 8, is nowhere even close to meeting its sales projections. This has also hurt others in the industry dependent of the sales of Windows based computers, including manufacturers such as Dell and HP, as well as Intel and other component makers. According to an April 10, 2013 press release from IDG, Bob O’Donnell, IDC program vice president, said, “Worldwide PC shipments totaled 76.3 million units in the first quarter of 2013 (1Q13), down -13.9 percent compared to the same quarter in 2012 and worse than the forecast decline of 7.7 percent, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. The extent of the year-on-year contraction marked the worst quarter since IDC began tracking the PC market quarterly in 1994. The results also marked the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year shipment declines. ... At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market.” Sales of PCs in the United States were down 12.7 percent in the first quarter of 2013, following a plunge of 18.3 percent over all of 2012.
Some of the issues that have dissuaded consumers from purchasing PCs running Windows 8 is the initial appearance of its “Metro” interface that utilizes “tiles” on its default desktop, rather than the more familiar icons used since the earliest days of Windows. While it is fairly simple to display a more traditional desktop on Windows 8, many users find the default tile approach confusing and the lack of the classical “Start” button annoying. For many users, tiles are a convenient way to have live, real-time content on their desktops that can simultaneously display any of many combinations of social media, news, sports, weather, stock quotes, entertainment, and other content in each of the individual tiles. While many users of tablets and other touch screen devices find that manipulating tiles with a swipe of the finger to be fast and convenient, many users of the more traditional PCs with monitors or laptop computers find working with the tiles confusing and cumbersome. Among the most popular freeware downloads for Windows 8 are utilities that restore the start button of Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows, as well as set the traditional desktop with icons as the default desktop in Windows 8, this there are who have forgone the purchase of a new computer because they do not want a new PC with Windows 8.
In an article dated April 15, posted on the well respected ZDNet, author Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols proclaimed, “Windows: It’s over.” Citing the growth of smart phones and tablets running operating systems other than Windows, which have taken away Windows’ market share (other sources have published that Google’s Android operating system has taken 75 percent of the market for tablets and smart phones), the decline of Windows as we know it is inevitable. According to Vaughan-Nichols, “Windows 8 gets to take a lot of the blame, too. After all, the debate wasn’t whether or not Windows 8 was any good. It’s not. The debate was over whether it could be saved.”
Microsoft is well aware of the predicament that it is in, considering the drastic decline in revenues of Windows 8. Microsoft might get a second chance or reprieve when later this summer when it releases an “improved” version of Windows 8, codenamed “Blue,” which will be released as Windows 8.1. The new product will likely be rolled out at a software developers’ conference in San Francisco, to be held June 26-28. “Product leaders across Microsoft are working together on plans to advance our devices and services, a set of plans referred to internally as Blue,” wrote Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications at Microsoft. Among the changes are resizable tiles (already available in Windows 8 smart phones), and the ability to customize the Start Screen without having to go through the Desktop Control Panel. Other rumored improvements to Windows 8.1 includes the ability to “snap” two windows side-by-side, as well as to optionally display four running applications on the display.
Will “Blue” be able to save Windows 8 from the dustbin of failed operating systems, and stop the hemorrhage of market share currently being suffered by Microsoft? Will Microsoft even survive as a corporation in its current form, as other operating systems win away market share for new technology smart devices, for which Microsoft is currently only a bit player? Is Microsoft the Titanic of the software industry, unable to turn in time to avoid disaster? Only time will tell.
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