Windows 8 shipped last week to mixed reviews. Ballmer himself called it “a bold re-imagining” of Windows. It’s bold alright, but not bold enough. Windows is doomed.
We can argue all day about whether Windows 8 is better or worse than Windows 7 or even Windows 9, but the real issue here isn’t the software at all but the platform, by which I mean the desktop PC. Companies, governments, families, schools, and individuals are all buying fewer desktop PCs than they used to. Desktop growth has reversed and international desktop expansion is slowing as even that market matures. This year will probably mark Microsoft’s highest desktop sales ever in dollar volume, which sounds good, except that next year sales will be less as they will again the year after and every year past that.
Six years from now (four hardware generations) Windows will be dead. Or free. And for all his bold re-imagining in New York last week, Steve Ballmer knows this, and that’s his dilemma.
Desktops are fading now, notebooks will be fading soon, both to be replaced by tablets and smart phones where Microsoft not only doesn’t dominate, they aren’t even among the major players. Death of the desktop is clear not because Windows desktop sales are declining but because Macintosh desktop sales are declining. When Mercedes (Apple) begins to suffer declining unit sales, what does it mean for GM (Microsoft)? Not good.