Windows Threshold – Bringing Back Windows 7 & the Desktop

It’s clear from the “retrohancements” in Windows 8.1 Update 1 and Windows Threshold, that Microsoft is saying, “mea culpa.”

image2993This is just a (short) update to one or two other columns that I’ve written here for Soft32 over the past few weeks and months.   It’s clear to me that Microsoft is firmly embracing its wishy-washy stance and back tracking not only on the implementation of the Metro/ ModernUI that it introduced with Windows 8 and Windows RT, but on the vision they had to change the direction of mainstream computing.

None of this is news. People have been saying this stuff for a little bit. However, it occurred to me while reading an article by Mary Joe Foley recently that Microsoft really has no one else to blame but themselves.

Windows XP was initially released in August of 2001, almost 13 years ago.   Windows XP SP3, the OS’ last major release and most current version, was released in April of 2008, nearly 6 years ago. Windows Vista, which used much the same UI, but is largely considered a flop by many industry leaders, was released in November of 2006, nearly 7 years ago. Windows 7, which uses much the same UI was released in July of 2009, over 4 years ago.

So what’s the point with the history lesson..?   Simple – Microsoft has had the same UI in place for approximately 15 years, or 50% of the modern computing history (and by modern computing history, I mean anything not mainframe/thin client based).

The world is hooked on the Windows desktop.   Microsoft’s licensing deals with most companies have allowed enterprise users to bring copies of Windows and Office to their homes for under   a $100 bucks combined.   That same software combination that would have cost nearly $750 at retail, depending on which versions of the two software titles you purchased. They further reinforced this desktop monopoly by making  many of their enterprise titles – Server editions of Windows, Exchange, SQL Server, etc., accessible for “testing” purposes via different developer and technical programs as well as other licensing programs that brought enterprise and business versions of Microsoft software to an end user’s home.

Somewhere during this 15 year dairy farm period where Microsoft didn’t do much more than milk the cash cows they had reared, someone got off the merry go round and looked around, realizing that the party was pretty much over.   At that point, they looked at the tablet and personal device trends – the CoIT and BYOD challenges that many IT managers were facing – and decided it was time to embrace that vision.   Unfortunately, this required a huge paradigm change not only for their products and their internal processes, but for their customers as well.

Going cold turkey is the (usually) best way to break a habit…unless of course, you’re talking about the way I get work done, and then maybe not so much. It’s clear that the rest of the world felt the same way, as the wailing and gnashing of teeth has been loud and arduous.   The Start Button is back. The Start Menu is confirmed to be coming back (though just how that, or any other returning feature, will be reimplemented is unknown as of this writing).

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no one to “blame” for the rejection of this new computing vision but themselves; and its two fold.

1.    If it ain’t broke…
If they had retired XP at a much earlier date, if Vista hadn’t been a train wreck, and if Windows 7 wasn’t viewed as the OS to save us from the disaster that Vista was or from the stale nature that was (and currently still is) Windows XP, then perhaps they wouldn’t be in the pickle that they’re in.   The world doesn’t stand still.   Moore’s Law was clearly in effect, and all of Microsoft’s billions couldn’t build blinders large enough to hide the changing computing trends
2.    A Lack of Vision and Leadership
Ballmer is a self-proclaimed sales guy. He doesn’t get computing and mobility very well, and unfortunately, those two combined to create the current computing trend that Apple, Google   and Samsung are clearly leading with their desktop and mobile operating systems.

Revelations like this just point out to the public what I’m certain the MS Board must already know – Microsoft has a long comeback road in front of it; and the organization really needs to pick the right CEO.   With both Gates and Ballmer remaining on the Board after Ballmer leaves the Microsoft CEO spot, that person’s job isn’t going to be easy. Not only do they have a public relations mess to fix – the public is not happy with the direction that Windows 8.x has been going and wants a change, the evolutionary rather than revolutionary path that Office has been taking coupled with both title’s high price tags – but the new Microsoft CEO will have to create both mission and vision strategies that fit well with the current strategic direction set in motion by Steve Ballmer (did I mention that he will still have a lot to say about the company’s direction after the new CEO is named..??).

No matter how you decide to look at this, it’s clear to me that Microsoft and its Board of Directors painted themselves into this corner. How they are going to get themselves out, is up to them.   I know that the entire world is waiting and watching. I know I am…and I’m certain I’ll have a thing or two to say about it in the coming months as developments unfold.

What about you?   What do you think of all of this?   Did Microsoft do this to themselves? Are they victims of circumstance, or did they just sort of arrive here because their product roadmap dropped them at the corner? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and let me know what you think?

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  • georgeou

    The notion that it takes Microsoft 3 years (2015) to listen to its customers and bring back the start menu and allow metro apps in a desktop window is truly disturbing. It shows that its leadership is clueless if they think withholding a simple common sense feature until Windows 9 in 2015 instead of Windows 8.1 UPDATE 1 is a good idea.

    The desktop/notebook paradigm was never dead and it isn’t dying now. What happened was that innovation in the desktop and notebook market got stale and a lot of people who never needed a desktop computer in the first place found a simpler and better solution in smartphones and tablets. People who still need traditional computing have switched to a longer replacement cycle and they’re getting their fix for a new toy from tablets and smartphones.

    This translates to reduces sales in traditional computing but it does indicate a permanent transition away from traditional computing. Microsoft trying to force the transition to what it envisions simply angers its customer base and pushes them toward Microsoft’s competitors.

    • Christopher Spera

      Great points, all, George. I’ve missed collaborating and discussing tech with you since BYTE closed up shop.

      I’ve been saying for years that Ballmer didn’t understand computing, let alone mobile computing. Its clearly his lack of vision that has been problematic and has been the problem with the direction the company has/has not been taking. I think the thing that bothers me the most (and would probably push me away from the CEO spot if I was on their radar) is that both Ballmer AND Gates are going to stay on the Board and will be pulling strings from behind the scenes. Its going to be difficult for any new chief executive to make any kind of changes or any kind of difference while both of them still have a great deal to say about what does and doesn’t happen.

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