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What if Windows 10 fails?

Scott M. Fulton, III | Jan. 19, 2015
The success or failure of a new Microsoft operating system version carries major consequences.

And while consumers may look more and more to Macs, keep in mind that no OEM will ever produce one.

A dearth of alternatives

"If Microsoft were teleported to another planet tomorrow, it would still take a long time for Windows to disappear," stated Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, in an e-mail discussion.

"There are Chromebooks at the low end and Macs at the high end, but [Windows] still has very high share in the meat of the PC market," Rubin continued. "Android might step in, but Google would have to loosen the reins on it in laptop form factors."

In a follow-up phone discussion, Rubin expanded on this point. Chromebook may yet make a rejuvenated play for the middle of the market from the low end, and MacBooks from the high end, he said. But the users who constitute the majority of the market in between the two have built up high expectations for functionality and reliability that neither product may be able to meet.

"For many users, there is no ready alternative," said Rubin. Google hasn't shown the capability yet, he noted, to offer the services Windows users expect; and Apple hasn't demonstrated any willingness to compete on cost, in what retailers call the "value" segment. "So you've got this huge swath in the laptop market between, say, $300 and $1,000, where... it's Windows."

Said Jackdaw's Dawson, "Even though I think Chrome OS is kind of the best runner-up, it's not a super-attractive option for most of the OEMs out there. Most have dabbled with Chrome OS to some extent anyway, but I think they recognize it has somewhat niche appeal, unless something changes pretty dramatically there. Any Linux distribution seems to be a real long-shot, frankly. It means people learning a whole new way of working with the computer. And if they're willing to do that, they may be willing to consider using a Mac."

One of Windows' greatest assets, the experts believe, has been its familiarity for users. Much of that familiarity is presented by its software base, and its resistance to the idea of change even in the presence of a compelling new form factor and runtime environment.

"Windows 8 created a discontinuity in the user experience that neither consumers nor enterprises were able to get past," said IDC's Hilwa. "People were upset that they have to learn new things; meanwhile there are alternatives in the form of cheaper, lighter, and more usable tablets. Microsoft underestimated the reaction to change, which a bit befuddling. Tech firms in general, being pre-occupied with 'disruption,' seem to have a blind spot for the value of familiarity."

"It is unlikely that Windows 10 will fail," he declared, "as long as it provides people the ability to use the system in the same way they are familiar with."


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