If Windows ever dies out, it will likely go out with a whimper and not with a bang. Windows enthusiast Paul Thurrott worries that the biggest problem facing Microsoft right now is that Windows just isn’t as important to most consumers’ lives as it used to be and that app developers’ creative energies have shifted more toward iOS and Android.
“Windows is in trouble because people simply don’t care about it anymore,” he writes. “It’s not outright hostility; there’s far less of that than the anti-Microsoft crowd would like to believe. It’s ambivalence. It’s ambivalence driven by the nature of ‘good enough’ mobile and web apps. It’s ambivalence driven by the allure of anytime/anywhere computing on tiny devices that are more cool to use and even cooler to be seen using.”
Where did it all go wrong for Microsoft? Thurrott singles out the same mistake that outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer cited as his biggest regret: The out-and-out debacle that was Windows Vista. Because Microsoft had to devote so much of its talent and resources to fixing all the many issues with Vista, it fell way behind its competition when it came to developing a strong mobile computing platform. This means that by the time that Microsoft finally got its act together with Windows Phone 8 in 2012, iOS and Android had already become established as the two dominant players in the mobile market.
“While this was happening, web apps, phones, and then tablets were becoming first viable and then truly powerful,” Thurrott explains. “While this was happening, developers stayed away from Microsoft’s new APIs in droves and created absolutely zero major new applications with that technology. While this was happening, desktop applications such as Office, Photoshop, and iTunes lumbered along, more out of inertia than anything else.”
And this is looking like the biggest challenge for the next CEO of Microsoft: How to generate not only consumer enthusiasm but genuine developer enthusiasm for Windows again.