kind of botched the endgame for
. The venerable platform didn't go out in a bang of forced
upgrades to Windows 8.1, as Redmond had planned, but continues to
live beyond its scheduled termination date.
Even now, four months after Microsoft pulled the support plug
on Windows XP, the 13-year-old platform stands for 25% of all Web
requests on the desktop. That's behind only Windows 7 and far
ahead of any other operating system -- including Microsoft's
preferred Windows 8 series:
There's no question that Microsoft could have handled the
passing of Windows XP's torch better. Vista was a terrible
successor, roundly rejected by consumers and IT shops alike.
Windows 7 made up for many of Vista's failings and stepped up to
become the most popular Windows version today. But Windows 8
dropped the baton again, setting Microsoft up for another tense
generation shift when Windows 9 hits store shelves.
Bear in mind that Microsoft is accelerating its Windows
support schedules. XP lost mainstream support after eight years
and extended security support in 13 years.
The original release version of Windows 7 dropped out of
mainstream support in just 4 years. The Service Pack 1 version
goes into extended support 6 years after the first sale, and
drops that limited corporate backing after a total of 11 years.
Windows 8 will follow Windows 7's quicker expiration
Here comes the next generation. Are you ready?
Windows 9 is coming, and maybe sooner than you'd expect.
, Microsoft is putting absolutely minimal further polish on the
Windows 8 series, focusing every effort on a larger Windows 9
release -- perhaps as soon as the spring of 2015.
Given Microsoft's one-two cadence of alternately popular and
flubbed Windows releases, this will be the release to replace
Windows 7 in the mainstream -- and to finally help users forget
all about Windows XP.
If that wasn't enough pressure, keep in mind that traditional
Windows users have serious alternatives these days. For
holds a small but significant corner of the desktop market.
Another disappointing Windows version for computers could start a
mass exodus to various tablet and smartphone options. In the
corporate world, Mac OS X rears its threatening head once again
while Linux platforms such as Ubuntu and Mint fill in their
In other words, Windows 9 will have some mighty big shoes to
fill. Microsoft just can't afford to fumble this hand-off.
What's the master plan?
For one, Microsoft allegedly plans to make Windows 9 look and
feel like a tablet if it finds itself installed on a touchscreen
system, and otherwise as a traditional desktop with a full Start
menu and everything. That's a great start, and will help the XP
and Windows 7 crowd feel more at home on their next-generation
But catering to the throwback market isn't enough to ensure
Windows 9's success. Fortunately, Microsoft might have another
ace up its sleeve: Free upgrades for existing Windows
Yes, sure, Microsoft will also introduce new features and
improve the system's stability. That goes without saying, but
none of these improvements are likely to motivate an
But if you tell people that they can have the latest and
greatest Windows version today for the unbeatable price of zero,
you can bet that they will show up at the checkout counter by the
millions. Proof of older Windows purchases in hand, they'll be
ready to enjoy several more years of security updates with a side
of appetizing new features. And the Windows legacy lives on.
According to ZDnet's anonymous sources, this offer might cover
users from the Windows 8 and maybe even Windows 7 camps. XP is
allegedly left out in the cold again,
I would add that Microsoft would be likely to offer a limited
Windows 9 installation as a free upgrade. That way, the new
next-generation users will have a revenue-generating carrot to
stretch for. If you want full multimedia functions or enterprise
networking tools, you'd better pay up for a higher-end Windows 9
edition. That's the way Microsoft has shipped its Windows
installations ever since Vista, after all.
The Home Basic version of Windows 7, for example, also comes
with all the information necessary to install Windows 7 Ultimate.
Just pay for a better Windows license, run the Anytime Upgrade
tool with the new license number, and you're good to go.
Will it work?
Microsoft has an easy way to boost its Windows 9 conversion
figures. If CEO Satya Nadella manages it correctly, this wave of
upgrades would stabilize Windows as a viable notebook and desktop
platform, while also clearing the path to further upgrades that
send some money to Redmond.
I'm betting that Nadella will play the free upgrade card. He
has shown a willingness to try new tricks, while predecessor
Steve Ballmer was more likely to stick with established methods
even as they grew obsolete. For example, Nadella already made
Windows Phone licenses free for smartphones and small tablets.
That's not a move I could imagine Ballmer making, even if
Microsoft's life depended on it.
So Windows 9 seems poised to erase at least some of the bad
blood that Windows 8 created. Will it be good enough to keep
Windows XP stragglers in the Microsoft fold? That depends on the
new platform's spit-shine polish and Nadella's willingness to
revisit the desktop-centric model that Ballmer wanted to
Beset by powerful rivals on every side, Microsoft wants to
fortify its software throne. Giving Windows 9 a chance to succeed
just might be the best bulwark Microsoft can build right now.
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