I’ve been watching the commentary about Windows 8 with some amusement because I can’t help but think that the majority of folks are looking at Windows 8 in the wrong way. In my opinion, Windows 8 is about what Microsoft thinks is the future of personal computing rather than just being an upgrade of Windows.
People who see Windows 8 as a failure out the door because Metro doesn’t translate well to non-touchscreen, desktop and notebook computers are missing the point. I think Microsoft knows that Metro is ill-suited for traditional computers, but it doesn’t care because it believes that tablets will replace those traditional computers for the majority of people in the near future.
Put another way, I see Windows 8 as an acknowledgement by Microsoft that what Steve Jobs said about it being a post-PC world is absolutely true, although Microsoft will never admit it. If tablets are in fact taking over, and Microsoft is late to the game, what should it do?
The good and bad news for Microsoft is that the trail into the new era of personal computing has been already blazed by Apple and Google. Apple is the recognized leader in making and selling these new devices and has done so by sticking to their strategy of owning the entire platform by manufacturing and selling the hardware and software as an entire package. Google’s approach has been to follow Microsoft’s desktop model of providing the operating system to multiple hardware companies for them to create and sell a product.
Apple’s approach has made them the leader in tablets, while Google’s approach has proven to not be successful. If you are Microsoft, which path are you going to chose?
Well, now we know the answer, Microsoft is manufacturing and selling their own tablet, the Microsoft Surface. The Surface will be Microsoft’s first computer, up until now the hardware that Microsoft has sold has been accessories, the Xbox, and some clunkers such as the Zune, so much will be said about how this is such a big change to Microsoft’s business model.
An even more interesting question to me is, what does Surface mean to operating systems and the future of personal computing? In my opinion the Surface announcement represents a decision by Microsoft that the day of selling an operating system as a stand alone product is coming to an end. Without it being sold as a separate product, less emphasis will be placed on the operating system and in its place is the device and the total user experience that defines it as a personal computer.
In concluding the Surface announcement Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer emphasized that the Surface is a computer and the Surface is a tablet. If it were me, I would have said the Surface is a real personal computer.