Why Windows 8 Needs Metro
Peter is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
The title begs the question, and most of the tech press refuse to think forward in time, but the short answer is that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) sees the future of computing and realizes that the monolithic operating system (as well as general purpose application) has a finite lifespan as a revenue center. Windows has seen the future, and it doesn’t involve people spending money on it. We have ridden this anomaly in the development of software to its conclusion, and Microsoft has not fully capitalized on its advantage over the years, preferring to acquire and protect the moat around its twin cash cows of Windows and Office rather than truly push them into new methods of computing.
Bill Gates could see the future, the tablet and mobile computing, but the company he left behind wasn’t capable of building it. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) was and did. And, really, I don’t believe Apple understood what they had when they released the iPhone. Steve Jobs gave the developers widgets and the world was nonplussed for a bit. But, then it started to turn. The iPhone required a completely different type of application born out of the tiny 3.5” bit of real estate available and the touch interface. But once the applications began to show up and human ingenuity was unleashed on a tabula rasa platform, there was no turning back and Microsoft had literally no answer for it.
Windows Mobile was built on Windows CE, which no one ever liked and it wasn’t purpose built for one device. Microsoft spent the last 25 years trapped in the paradigm of having to be all things to all people, and that mindset informed how they approached special purpose devices. Without control of the hardware they had no control over how to develop the software and it couldn’t create any synergy with future technology. It had to be scrapped and the mobile OS had to merge with the PC OS. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) simply took advantage of Microsoft’s inability to shift gears quickly enough to challenge Apple and saw the opening to be the Anti-Apple in the same way that Apple was the Anti-Microsoft for a generation.
Today we are on the verge of Microsoft finally being ready to compete with these two in the mobile ecosystem space, but to do so they have to risk alienating a current segment of their user base, something they have been loath to do forever. By doing that, they are taking the risk of completely altering their revenue model from a software licensing company to a software middle-man company that also sells hardware.
In short they need to become Apple, and they need to do it quickly.
The money in computing going forward is in the services you provide, not the software you sell. Therefore nearly everyone pooh-poohing Metro on a PC simply does not understand where computing is going. It’s right in front of them, but they still think that putting both environments in one OS is stupid.
It’s not. It’s brilliant. And it’s the only chance they have of surviving.
Windows 8/RT/Phone are the same OS purpose-built for specific devices, all of which facilitate connecting the user to the world seamlessly. Do you really think for the next ten years people will be willing to buy their OS for their computer? What comparative advantage will Windows still have over the others if 95% of all applications can be run within a web browser?
Complaints about touch interfaces with point and drool (yes, I’m old enough to remember the command line) devices are the same as those launched at the original GUI nearly 30 years ago. As the app base expands, so will the amount of time one spends on a traditional PC using it like a phone, slipping back and forth between the activities in a natural way.
Simply put if Microsoft didn’t have a touch-centric, platform-neutral UI shipping with Windows 8, the company would be dead within five years.
The comparative advantage is in the back end and the facilitation the system gives the user in accessing the content/activities he wants to engage in. Apple has seen this for years. If Microsoft’s roll out of Windows 8 across all hardware is successful, this will drive huge numbers in touchscreen PC’s and laptops. Why would people who have already proven that they love touching the screen of their phone/tablet be reluctant to do so on their ultra-serious work PC?
As an argument it’s a non-starter. The same way that Steve Ballmer could not see the future in the iPhone five years ago, the current generation of techies cannot see that the future lies with evolving the interface away from the mouse and keyboard.
PeterPham8 has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.