Windows 8 Part 1 – Repeating Windows 7 Success

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview (or Beta) is due out on 29-Feb-12 at Mobile World Congress. While it may be strategically important to Microsoft, consumers may not thing so.

I’ve been part of nearly every Windows Technical Beta Team since Windows 95. I’m used to being one of Microsoft’s go-to external testers. I also was part of their Windows 7 Launch, as I was chosen in 2009 to host a Windows 7 Launch Party at my home. I covered the event for a local paper as well, and spun off into a print column for them called, “Technically Speaking.” At the time of its release, Windows 7 was the right operating system for Microsoft’s ailing desktop operating system business – It provided enough of a reason to compel enterprise users to move away from Windows XP, and wasn’t the consumer-worrying, performance deprived, hardware consuming mess that Windows Vista was.

With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is hoping to address two big issues.

1. Repeat the Windows 7 success
2. Address the tablet trend

In this two part series, we’re going to look at both of these issues and try to make sense of it all.

Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 – Repeat the Success

There are a couple basic reasons why Windows 7 was so successful, and both of them are operating system related. Interestingly enough, both reasons have nothing do to with Windows 7.

Windows 7 wasn’t Windows XP

Windows 7 owes a lot of its past and current success to Windows XP. WinXP was released over 11 years ago. It stuck around in the enterprise for so long because it was solid. Even though it still has a number security issues, it’s still a huge player in the enterprise space because of XP’s longevity and familiarity with IT support staff. Simply put, they’ve been working with it for so long, they’re familiar with the pain it causes, know where the problems are, and know how to deal with them.

However, its time has come and gone. Many companies that are still running the aged OS are in the process of phasing it out of the enterprise and are making in the process of drafting or implementing approved Windows 7 migration plans. IT support staff members feel confident that their users will be able to effectively make the transition without too many use or support issues. It’s enough like XP that users will be able to make a smooth transition, and improved enough that the support issues encountered with XP have been successfully and effectively addressed. Microsoft had also clearly made its plans for sun setting the OS widely known.

Simply put, Windows 7 was a success because the need for an XP replacement was clear. XP needed a replacement and the enterprise and consumer public was more than ready for it.

Windows 7 Clearly was NOT Windows Vista

One of the biggest reasons why Windows 7 was such a success was that it clearly was NOT Windows Vista. While Vista may have introduced a new interface, desktop theme and new technology, it unfortunately came with a lot of problems.

Microsoft moved everything. Windows XP users moving to Vista had a huge problem using the OS. Many of the features and functions that they were used to going to in location X were now located in location Z (location “Y” would have made sense, but MS seemed to randomly move things to new locations that only THEY understood the reasoning behind…).

Vista was late to market. The OS, originally code named Longhorn, was well over 7 years late being released. Worse yet, it was riddled with performance issues. Correcting them was easy and after SP1 was released, it actually wasn’t a bad OS.

Its problems were marketing in and PR-based. Windows 7 didn’t have a hard time being a success. In fact, based on Vista’s bad PR and XP’s overly long longevity, Windows 7 couldn’t have been much else other than a success. Microsoft did what it needed to do to address some interface and user experience issues, further improved the underlying performance and put some marketing money behind the release. The result was instant success.

Come back next time, and we’ll address some items in the Windows 8 Developer’s Preview and what’s supposed to be happening with the Consumer Preview to address the increasing popularity of tablets at both home and at work.

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