THE BLOG

Has Windows 8 Become a 'Turkey'?

08/05/2013 15:50 BST | Updated 07/07/2013 10:12 BST

When things go wrong for big companies there is always a sense that they should have had sufficient resources to ensure they avoided whatever problem has befallen them.

So the speculation that Microsoft is receiving poor feedback from the purchasers of its latest operating system, Windows 8, has allowed many to wonder if this is a moment similar to the disastrous launch by Coac-Cola of a new "Coke" some 30 years ago which was hated by customers (and rapidly withdrawn).

Microsoft was the biggest beast in the world of computing. Its DOS operating system allowed us to use computers for in ways that we now consider to be commonplace. Though Apple offered an alternative which advocates thought was superior, it was more expensive. Consequently the majority of purchasers of computers for selected equipment using Microsoft software.

Creating new software updates by Microsoft has been a lucrative business as users of equipment using its software feel compelled to purchase the latest way of running computers to carry out the ever-increasing array of functions.

And that is the problem.

Steve Ballmer who is the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft has stated with some pride that worldwide there are believed to be over two thirds of a billion computers using Windows which, of course, means that they could all be potentially upgraded to Windows 8.

Given that a significant proportion of these computers are used by organisations ranging from small outfits right up to large multinational companies and public sector bodies (including local and national government), any problems can have profound and, of course, costly effects.

Add to the situation that Microsoft has been seen to be having to respond to the fact that purchasers are increasingly being offered alternatives in the form of tablets with touchscreen controls and it probably feels under pressure to ensure that its software can perform similarly.

But, apparently, like the majority of Coca-Cola drinkers three decades ago, many core users of Microsoft products are not happy to switch away from the use of the mouse and keyboard.

And the biggest gripe is the fact that Microsoft has decided to get rid of the start menu that has appeared in the bottom left hand corner of the screen since the mid-1990s.

Microsoft's head of marketing and finance for the Windows business has acknowledged that there have been issues among users of the new system and that there is a need to "address" them by an upgrade to rectify problems later this year and that the start menu may be restored.

However, whether this is a 'new coke' moment remains to be seen.

Some commentators, especially the harbingers of doom, believe that the once mighty Microsoft is being humbled and that its decline will be inexorable though it is important to note that 100 million licences have been sold for Windows 8.

From a business and organisational perspective there are questions being asked about Ballmer's stewardship though him Microsoft revenues have risen from $25.3 billion in 2001 to $74.3 billion in 2012.

However, there is a spooky resonance with Apple in that like, Tim Cook who is the CEO there, and was a key figure under the late Steve Jobs, Ballmer was personally selected by Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft.

Ballmer's position is not helped by Windows 8 being been partly blamed for a 14% drop in sales in PCs in the first quarter. Additionally, some major manufacturers such as Samsung are switching to the Android system rather than Windows.

His position is further undermined by the fact that Joachim Kempin who was a former Microsoft between 1983 and 2002 and believes that change is required because he believes that Ballmer lacks "vision" and the CEO should be able to understand the "total market."

Like Apple, Microsoft is not going to go bankrupt.

What it may have to get used to, though, is that the dominance it once enjoyed and, perhaps, took for granted are now over. It faces the dilemma of being able to innovate whilst at the same time keeping existing users of Windows happy.

In strategic history it is highly unusual for a company the size of Microsoft to rediscover the innovative genius that created the DOS system which made it so fabulously successful in the past.

What is absolutely certain is that technological innovation in IT will continue and products we might not even have contemplated, and which could become as commonplace as the PC is now, may currently be under development.

Whether Microsoft contributes to the next technological revolution remains to be seen.

In the meantime the priority for Microsoft will be sorting out the problems with Windows 8.