Windows 8: Can Microsoft Overcome the Innovator's Dilemma?

I'm stunned. One of the biggest Microsoft critics -- a true Apple Fanboy -- is raving about Windows 8, which Microsoft demonstrated today at the Microsoft BUILD conference in Anaheim, Calif. Still, it's important to keep the Windows 8 hype in perspective. We're talking about early development code here. And a whole lot could go wrong as Microsoft tries to promote a new user interface across a range of platforms -- everything from tablets to desktops. I think the biggest Windows 8 question involves the classic innovator's dilemma: Can Microsoft really break new ground without breaking Windows?

I must concede: I originally wondered why Microsoft was starting to evangelize Windows 8 right now, at a time when Windows 7 is doing well in the market and millions of systems are still running Windows XP and Windows Vista. But now I'm starting to see the light: The tablet threat really is a big deal. My entire family is addicted to iPads, as are most managed services providers I see on the road these days. And if you look at the revenue figures, Microsoft's Windows sales have actually dipped 4 percent.

Now, Microsoft faces the classic Innovator's Dilemma: On the one hand, Microsoft must break free of its legacy Windows heritage, and innovate like crazy to gain ground in a growth market: Tablets. But on the other hand, Microsoft can't be too radical. Windows 8 has to support legacy applications and a legacy user interface, even as the software giant attempts to promote Windows 8's fancy Metro User Interface.

Can Microsoft strike the right balance between legacy support and true innovation?

What Microsoft Partners Really Want

It sounds like Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows Division, hit a home run with today's BUILD keynote and Windows 8 demo. And check out this demo:

Beyond the Eye Candy

But again: All that Windows 8 glitz may not matter much to MSPs. After all, managed services providers want some pretty basic capabilities from an operating system:
  • Reliability
  • Extensive legacy application support
  • Broad, predictable network connectivity
  • Easy remote support
  • Security
  • Mobility (in a growing number of use cases)
Can Microsoft deliver on those requirements even as the software giant promotes a stunning amount of Windows 8 eye candy? As our sister site, The VAR Guy, stated today:
"For business professionals, and the channel, Windows 8 will be Windows as usual. You don’t have to use all the fancy stuff, but it’s there if you want it. Word, Excel, development applications and anything else will still load up like they used to. Microsoft has promised that anything that ran on Windows 7 would run on Windows 8. But the true purpose of Windows 8 is making everyday computing incredibly simple and easy."
Two confessions:
  • First, I did not write The VAR Guy blog quoted above.
  • Second, Windows 8 almost sounds too good to be true.
That second item worries me...
TAGS: Technology
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