Windows 8 is out. Yawn. I won’t be standing in line. I wait a minimum of a year to install new versions of Windows anyway, a practice that’s beein serving me well since 1994, and I skipped Vista altogether at home. I had it at work, so I know I didn’t miss anything. If Windows 8 is worth having, I’ll know about it by this time next year.
On a related note, it seems there will be no Windows 7 SP2. That’s Microsoft trying to be Apple; Apple rarely releases service packs either. Instead, they release new OS builds more frequently, and charge less for them. Which approach is better? I think service packs. Which one is more profitable? Potentially, releasing a new OS every couple of years and charging $40. Then, you essentially get to charge $40 for each service pack.
Up-front, it’s less profitable because you’re not selling $200 copies of Windows anymore. But when you consider the number of people still running 10-year-old copies of Windows XP, it starts to look more profitable just to release a new version of Windows every even-numbered year and a service pack to humor Gartner in the first quarter of each odd-numbered year, then encourage upgrades by ceasing hotfix support as quickly as possible. It produces a steadier revenue stream. And since shareholders live and die by the upcoming quarterly results, it could be that less is more.
Businesses won’t like that upgrade cycle, but Microsoft could compensate by making every other release business-oriented, and hoping the consumer side will adopt each version while the businesses alternate versions, much as they’ve done anyway in recent years, by running XP, skipping Vista, upgrading to 7, and skipping 8.
And finally, Gartner is predicting that by 2016, Android will have a larger installed base than Windows. That’s a bold prediction, but the world is changing. And one has to remember that DOS and Windows rose to dominance partly by being cheaper than their alternatives. Android is cheaper than Windows, so an Android device will always sell for less than a comparably-powered Windows device. So is plain old Linux, yes, but Android delivers a consumer-friendly user experience.
And who knows. If Windows 8 flops and Microsoft loses its way, that prediction could happen sooner than 2016. I saw Google commercials for the Chromebook during the playoffs and World Series, so Google is clearly serious about trying to extend its success.
Ten years ago, displacing Windows was unthinkable. Expand the game beyond PCs, though, and then you have a new set of rules, and it’s a new game.