A line about Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 from an IDC report is getting lots of attention this week for predicting that the upcoming operating system will be “largely irrelevant” to users of traditional PCs.

There’s always a risk with these things that the full context of the quote can get lost in translation, so we went to the source, IDC analyst Al Gillen, for a copy of the original report.

Here’s the relevant excerpt below, which is more nuanced but still obviously not a good thing for Microsoft if it turns out to be true.

Microsoft has received considerable criticism — much of it deserved — for its failure to engage with the media tablet or general-purpose tablet space as that market was taking off. The company’s answer is a solution called Windows 8, which attempts to offer the best of both worlds on the client market. Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor. However, there will be intense scrutiny on Microsoft’s ability to deliver a successful tablet experience aboard both x86-based tablets and on devices running ARM processors. This is a tall order for Microsoft, and while the x86 tablet strategy makes sense as a transitional solution for today’s PC users, it will be the ARM-based devices that need to shine and clear a high bar already set by Apple.

The key to Microsoft’s success is how the developer community responds to the all points bulletin that Microsoft issued at its BUILD Conference earlier this year. If Microsoft can motivate developers to reengineer existing applications to render well in Windows 8’s Metro UI and bring net-new mobile applications to Windows-based devices, then Microsoft has a chance to remain relevant in this important market segment. However, if it is unable to marshal the developer community to invest the way needed — and over the past several waves of Windows releases the company has not succeeded at this task — the future is bleak. IDC believes that Microsoft’s success with Windows 8 on tablets will be disappointing during 2012, and if it does not change some of its philosophy in how it is approaching the mobile market, it will not be successful longer term. Expect to see Windows 8 products emerge no later than August 2012, although if the company is successful in moving more quickly than it has in the past, we could see the product during CY 2Q12.

We’ve asked Microsoft if it wants to comment on the prediction.

Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, who originally broke the news, has more on the report, including IDC’s upbeat comments on Windows Server 8.

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  • Guest

    “I love our strategy. The board loves our strategy”

    – Steve Ballmer.  

  • Guest

    Microsoft would be wise to ignore this, but I’ll comment on the prediction: I believe they are designing Windows 8 to be a faster, simpler and more elegant user experience for all PC users, regardless of form factor or input models (mouse/keyboard, touch, gesture or voice).  Whether it is “irrelevant” or not is really up to how well they execute.

    Undeniably they are late (though things would look much different now had Windows Phone gained more traction in its first year of sales). But if they pull this off, they will redefine the tablet and mobility markets and the concept of a “post-PC era” will quickly seem like a quaint notion.

    One thing is certain: if Microsoft can deliver a single, coherent product ecosystem spanning Windows Phone, Windows 8, Xbox and the cloud, they will have a very compelling story. 

    • Bill

      Have you actually used the Developer Preview?

      I have, and it’s a very jarring experience. There’s the Windows experience and the Metro experience and they are so different that when you move between them (which is unavoidable at the moment because the Start menu is gone and the Metro “Start Screen” has replaced it) I almost always do a double take.

      The UIs are as different as a shell/terminal/command line UI and a GUI.

      • Guest

        “The UIs are as different as a shell/terminal/command line UI and a GUI.”

        Not even close.   

        • Guest

          Perhaps not that extreme, but a very jarring experience to be sure.  

          • Guest

            No perhaps about it. It’s an ignorant and inaccurate comparison.

    • Bob

      Ignoring it isn’t wise. That’s how they played the anti-Vista and anti-Kin situations and both ended up DOA.

      But I agree with your point that MS has an opportunity (and now outside one perhaps) to redefine expectations for tablet and mobility. The issue is that currently, at least in the DP, the experience between legacy and Metro is jarring (to use Bill’s term) and anything but “elegant” (to use yours). Part of that is perhaps expected in a DP, and if they resolve it satisfactorily by the beta then they still have a shot at success. But if they continue to ignore the feedback and stand by their “telemetry” data and desire to push WRT instead, they risk further accelerating the defection away from Windows to Macs and now to iPads.

    • Guest

      Well, then they’d better not fragment things by having backwards compat on intel tablets and no backwards compat on AMD tablets.

      That would be a huge customer experience fail.  Pick one or the other and stick with it.

  • Guest

    So-called “analysts” made the same pessimistic projections about Windows 7. They envisioned a world where businessmen would get everything done with ChromeBooks and iPods.

    Windows is still how the world operates. I expect Windows 8 to be as hugely successful and as hugely profitable as Windows 7 has been.

    Microsoft continues to defy those who say “no” to it. Kudos to them.

    • Anonymous

      Why then has MSFT’s stock price not had any significant gain in several years? Indeed, its well below 2007 prices. The market seems skeptical of long term prospects. I spend 98% of my compute experience these days in a browser. I’m typing this on a WinXP netbook and I have zero motivation to upgrade it as it meets my needs. I suspect many people will be evaluating the need to change OS’s in the future if like me, they are spending more and more of their time online in a browser or on a mobile device.  MSFT has a poor track record in maintaining media stores often abandoning efforts and leaving users stranded (Zune for example) this may likely handicap the company in attracting people to partake of an ecosystem.  It will have to be ultra compelling to move people away from current offerings.  MSFT has some interesting technologies (Connect, Surface etc.)  that might possibly be parlayed into their business systems but it takes more than simply having cool technology to be successful. The marketplace is littered with failed “good ideas”. 

      • Guest

        Several years? It’s where it was in 1998.

      • Anonymous

        The stock market is broken. Yes, why has a company that continues to see record profits year after year have such a low stock price? Because its all a scheme/scam. The whims of investors do not reflect the actual health of a company. Do I need to remind you of the inflated stock prices of the Dot Com bust?
        Until people can get 99.9% uptime for internet in their homes most people won’t be switching to online only apps anytime soon. In the US Comcast, Verizon, etc still experience intermittent outages at least, not to mention people in rural areas can’t even get decent broadband.

        Microsoft’s movie/music/games “market places” have been around for years. Been buying music from Zune market and games from Xbox live since 2007. Don’t see those getting abandoned anytime soon. 

        They didn’t leave people stranded with Zune they upgraded the original Zunes with new and more functional software. Even Apple didn’t do that. Since the Zune was only widely available in the North American market it was destined not to do that well but considering they moved the Zune player and Zune UI into phones (where people in 2011 listen to their music) I hardly say they left user stranded.

        Do you even realize that the Xbox and Kinect (not Connect) continue to sell incredibly well even though the console is 6 years old? They just had a record week during Thankgiving, but its all about stock price so MS is doomed…

    • Guest

      “I expect Windows 8 to be as hugely successful and as hugely profitable as Windows 7 has been.”
      Not unless DP is fixed and overhauled.  That was a frankenstein kludge of half-baked UI ideas from two generations of thought

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