Thursday, 1 November 2012

Recession does no favours for Windows 8

Microsoft is heaping piles of money pushing Windows 8 but it is not the only company hoping to convince the world its operating system will open up opportunities and refresh the laggard PC market. Faced with general disinterest from the consumer, vendors are struggling to sell computers.

What all those captains of industry and their employees in politics forgot is the method of permanent growth is vital to an economy. Instead, the west is getting austerity. With no spare change in its pocket, PCs are the last thing on the collective hivemind.

Sure, visiting the right corners of the internet reveals enthusiasm for discussing the latest gadgetry, but this does not necessarily mean sales and this, too, is only a snapshot of a certain sector of society. Just as the technology press must report and review new releases, this doesn't translate to effective advertising except for people with money to spend.

The vendors do not seem to understand that their method of drip feeding technology is beginning to dry up. It's a widely held belief, if you talk to the right executives, that what is necessary is something exciting, something innovative to generate consumer interest. They are falling over themselves to come up with the next interesting hybrid or, in Intel's case, leaning on a gargantuan marketing kitty to push the 'new' Ultrabook. Of course, people aren't stupid. And they can recognise Ultrabooks look a lot like Macbook Airs with a price tag that is close to matching. Slick advertising and sponsorship deals do not seem to be helping the company's lofty goal of a majority Ultrabook share in PCs over the years for the moment.

It was hoped Windows 8 would shake up consumer spending. Since its launch, Steve Ballmer claimed at the Build conference that Microsoft has managed to sell 4 million copies of the operating system. He also mentioned analyst figures about selling 400 million PCs next year, most of which will be Windows 8. The numbers are impressive, but Ballmer neglected to mention Microsoft is offering upgrades at a very cheap rate, and Windows 8 will eventually be installed de facto, so the consumer choice won't be a factor in flooding the market: users will like it or lump it.

Because Windows 8 has been designed to run on the myriad of Windows 7 computers currently active in the market, the company will get a fair few upgrades this way too. This does not mean enthusiasm for the product. Eventually the benefits of upgrading to Windows 8 will outweigh  the cons, that is, when apps and software is designed exclusively for the OS the consumer again will feel it has little choice to upgrade.

Redmond's method of bribing users by offering a heavily discounted upgrade is much like the company's approach to developers. Microsoft is so keen on building its ecosystem - lessons learned from Windows Phone 7? - that it is giving attendees at the Build conference a free Surface RT, a Nokia Lumia 920 mobile phone, and 100 gigabytes of Skydrive. It faces enormous competition and, building a new ecosystem practically from the ground up, will be difficult against already established players.

The main question of the day for the vendors should be: don't they know there's a recession on? It is true that the rich are doing better than ever, but the wealthy buy Apple. Software and hardware companies would do well to either focus their attention on other continents or make a concerted effort to drastically reduce retail prices.
The traditional spending power western companies are used to in their native territories is shifting, and no amount of operating systems, apps, tablets, smartphones, hybrids or computers will put money back in the pocket of the consumer.

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