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Meet Windows 8, the OS with really bad timing

Brad Chacos | June 26, 2013
Windows 8 launched prematurely, but the stars are finally beginning to align for Microsoft's new-look OS.

No two ways around it: Windows 8 has been subjected to a withering barrage of criticism since its release a long eight months back.

Why did Microsoft's latest OS suffer from such a divisive launch? You can point the finger at all sorts of things, from the sluggish pace of the PC market to the jarring changes inherent to a new-look operating system, but many of those flaws are symptoms of a much more insidious cause: Poor timing.

The core concept at the heart of Windows 8, you see, was a startling case of Jekyll-and-Hyde in more than implementation alone. The operating system itself was both two years too late for its own good... and one year premature at the same time.

In an increasingly PC-plus world, Windows 8 was a truly necessary OS with truly unfortunate timing--but the stars are finally starting to align in Microsoft's favor, just in time for the impending Build developer conference. For the first time ever, all the cards Microsoft needs will soon be on the table.

Here's what I mean.

Two years too late
Windows 8 absolutely had to come out when it did. By October of last year, the tablet train was already fully boarded and picking up steam. Microsoft needed to hop on immediately or be left staring at the clouds of dust kicked up by competitors barreling into the future of computing, because the tablet's sudden ascent--and the stalled growth of the PC market--caught the company woefully flat-footed.

The original iPad arrived six months after the launch of Windows 7. Android tablets appeared shortly thereafter. In the scant few years between that and the release of Windows 8, the Apple/Android duo became well-entrenched in the slate space, aided by the ubiquity of iOS and Android on smartphones. After all, if you're already used to swiping and tapping your way around an operating system on your phone, making the jump to a tablet rocking the same OS is all but seamless.

"Microsoft underestimated the demand for a simple, touch-based operating system that could steal business away from personal computers," says Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

The company tried establishing a beachhead with Windows Phone, but, well, practically nobody buys Windows Phones, so that potential avenue toward a tablet crossover remained closed. Meanwhile, iOS and Android were adopted en masse on phones and tablets alike--and once you're keyed into a particular ecosystem, you have strong incentives to stay put, from file compatibility to the sheer familiarity factor. (Just ask happy Windows 7 users.)


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