With the release of yet more data showing Windows 8's dismal performance in the marketplace, we have to ask: Is Windows 8 failing to gain traction because it sucks, or because there's no demand for it?
That is a key question that must be on the minds of the execs at Microsoft right now, but it's a question that may also impact anyone else who makes software on a timed version release scheduled these days.
First, the numbers from NetMarketshare. Looking at the Desktop Operating System Marketshare for May, Windows 8 is fourth on the rankings list, its 4.27% market share coming in behind Windows 7 (44.85%), Windows XP (37.74%) and Windows Vista (4.51%). While Windows 8 is outperforming each of the individual versions of Mac OS X, there are still far fewer Windows 8 machines in the world than any given OS X machine (7.06% combined).
Given that we are just past the seven-month mark for the official release of Windows 8, you'd normally think that Windows 8 would have passed at least one the previous three versions of Windows by now. But here it is, still behind Vista, the much maligned version of Windows that debuted more than six years ago, in November 2006.
Blame A Crowded, Shrinking Market
It would be very easy to point fingers at the Windows development team and place the blame on the radical redesign of the Windows 8 interface as the cause of the problem. But that may be too much of a generalization.
A larger cause for the new operating system's failure to gain traction in the marketplace may lie in an unexpected reason: people are happy with what they have. This satisfaction lies in two categories: the Windows software they have is stable enough to support the apps they are using and the hardware they are using is powerful enough to run the OS and apps they are using.
Since fewer PCs are being upgraded, Windows 8 preload have fewer opportunities to enter the market.
This situation may resonate with ReadWrite users, some of whom cited this slow down in hardware upgrading as one of the reasons PC sales are slowing down, even as tablet sales accelerate.
(See also Tablets Killing Desktops Faster Than Ever)
After years of new application upgrades forcing users to upgrade their machines if they wanted their new software to run faster than a crawl, web-based apps like Gmail and social network platforms like Facebook have disrupted the hardware/software upgrade cycle.
Feature saturation on local applications like office suites played a contributing factor, too. If my business communications and finances can be handled quite well with Office 2007, why upgrade and deal with the pain of retraining?
Given such a situation, Windows 8 may have really never stood a chance for massive blockbuster release numbers. The market is too crowded with, ironically, other Windows installs that are doing the jobs they need to do well enough. Microsoft also faces a similar problem of entrenchment in the mobile sector, though with iOS and Android standing in the way.
Eventually, Windows 8 will be the market leader. Entropy will see to that, as PCs and laptops break down and need to be replaced. But by that time, it may be Windows 9 or even 10 that will be standing in line, waiting for their turn as number one in the PC marketplace.