The latest data from Net Applications shows Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Window 8 platform now takes up 5.1% of desktop market share worldwide. But at a time of plummeting PC sales, does the growth of Windows 8 even matter for the Redmond company?
You're darn right it does.
First off, the PC isn't dead -- at least not yet. Gartner just released data showing that global PC shipments are going to decline by 10.6% this year, while the company expects tablet shipments to increase by 68%. Yes, PCs as we know them are on the way out, but many industries and employers still depend on PCs to get their work done -- and some things a tablet just isn't as good for yet.
Microsoft's Windows 8 platform is key to holding on to consumers who still need a robust platform to do their work. The research vice president at Gartner recently told ComputerWorld that "Microsoft remains relevant thanks to enterprise and professional users." The challenge for Microsoft is for Windows 8 to outpace its other Windows versions. As it stands right now, Windows 7 takes 44.37% and XP still holds 37.17% of desktop operating systems. For Windows to stay relevant, Microsoft needs its latest OS to tackle its older versions.
The other side to this is that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) is gaining ground on Microsoft, and by 2015 Gartner expects devices running Apple's operating systems -- mobile and desktop -- to outnumber the number of devices running Windows. Apple obviously beats Microsoft in the consumer mobile space, but its important for Microsoft to try and defend its territory against Apple's encroachment. Microsoft is already lagging on the mobile side and its desktop software is one of the only places it still dominates.
But Microsoft isn't just fighting old enemies in the desktop business -- Android is starting to move further into the PC space as well. Just the other week HP announced the all-in-one Android PC, called the HP Slate. As the lines begin to blur between desktop and mobile, Windows 8 needs to show it has the best of both worlds.
The last reason Microsoft needs to see Windows 8 gain traction is because the OS is the new face of the company. Microsoft needs to show consumers that it can at least get the desktop version of its software right before it expects people to buy its mobile products. The recent beta release of Windows 8.1 is an admission that Microsoft missed the mark on its initial release.
Hopefully Microsoft has made enough changes in 8.1 that will please current customers, but for those that were disappointed, it could not only hurt the company's desktop reputation, but its mobile one, too.
The world revolves around mobile
Unfortunately, I think Microsoft missed its opportunity to impress consumers -- and investors -- with Windows 8, and I think it could hurt the company's mobile sales because of it. Desktops and mobile OSes are becoming increasingly intertwined, and so far Microsoft has shown that it can't release a spectacular version of either one.
Investors need to see continued improvements to Windows 8 that not only satisfy die-hard users, but impress potential ones as well. As mobile and desktop OSes continue to morph into one, Microsoft needs to get its software right to so it can keep pace with mobile dominators.
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