How Windows 8 has complicated Microsoft's development of Windows 9
As you read these words, Microsoft (MSFT) developers are probably already deep into the requirements and design phase of the next version of Windows (presumably Windows 9).
I believe that this is a very pivotal and critical decision point for the worlds largest software company.
I spent 3 years of my life closely tracking the development, deployment and demolition of Windows 8. It was a bold bet by the company but it clearly didn’t pay off.
A new direction
After it was apparent that Windows 8 wasn’t a raving success,Microsoft replaced a lot of the senior management responsible for making that failed bet. This sent a message throughout the company and to the public that things were different and the company was going in a new direction.
To top things off, Steve Ballmer resigned and the transition was made to Satya Nadella, a “fresh” face going in (once again) a new direction.
This is where it gets complicated
Steve Ballmer made news when he said that Windows was the riskiest bet that Microsoft had ever made. On the surface, it seemed like that statement was talking about changing the face of Windows 7 and going in a new direction but it was about much more.
Ballmer’s statement was about more than changing the face of Windows 7 because if that was all it took, they would have quickly backtracked and gone back to Windows 7. That’s not possible because Microsoft changed a lot more than the look of Windows with Windows 8.
They changed almost everything.
- They (obviously) changed the underlying code in the OS.
- They added a brand new OS (Windows RT).
- They made major changes to the Windows Phone 8 platform.
- They introduced a new Tablet (Surface) running Windows 8.
- They started to head toward a unified platform for phones etc.
- They added a Windows Store.
- They shifted emphasis with new Development tools.
On and on it goes.
These are what we (in IT) used to call “Legacy decisions”. The decisions that were made before a large re-org and everyone still has to live with.
These decisions have made life complicated for the software giant.
Microsoft is bending over backwards to make Windows 8 easier to use, better and more pleasing to customers. These are enhancements that customers are getting used to and will expect to keep. The challenge is, because of all the aforementioned investments they have made, it’s almost impossible to start from scratch with Windows 9.
Because it’s almost impossible to start from scratch, they may be saddled with the ghost of a product (Windows 8) that I believe they really, deep down don’t like or want. If they do decide to start from scratch, it is going to be a lot more expensive, time consuming and complicated to change all the integration points that exist with other Microsoft products.
Going forward, I believe that with Windows 9, Microsoft will continue to try and refine Windows 8 with a few new flourishes. It’s the most pragmatic business decision – heading in a brand new direction would be entirely too risky.
For the Microsoft investor, I actually don’t think it matters very much because for better or worse, Microsoft is not a consumer software company.
Microsoft is now a business software/service company that makes software that is used by consumers – a big difference.
In the pure consumer space, Microsoft is the underdog. They benefit from low expectations at this point.
Regarding Windows 9, there are three possibilities moving forward:
- Microsoft underwhelm with Windows 9 and people pile on and say they failed again BUT the underlying financial structure of the company won’t be affected that much because their business solutions are so strong.
- Microsoft create an average release with Windows 9 and consumers shrug and things (and the stock) remain status quo.
- Microsoft create a blockbuster success with Windows 9. The most unlikely scenario but one that would show some upside with investors but not much. There are too many structural financial challenges with the Windows model for the celebrations to be long term because it’s getting harder and harder to convince businesses and individuals to pay for Windows in general.
For the Microsoft investor, once again, I actually don’t think it matters very much. I see Microsoft growth coming purely from more innovative BUSINESS solutions which can also be used by customers.
What do you think?
Which direction will Microsoft go in with Windows 9?