After I graduated from college, I briefly sold Volkswagens. As I’ve pondered the metamorphosis of Windows from a desktop-focused to a tablet-focused operating system, I keep reliving an experience with a specific customer during that time.
This customer came in, and when engaged, said – perhaps unsurprisingly, “I want to buy a car”. I asked him what kind of car he was looking for. He replied, “either a VW Cabrio or a Toyota pickup”.
I’d heard customers thinking of a Miata or a Cabrio (both being convertibles), or even comparing a Jetta and Passat, since they weren’t sure how much room they needed without trying the two differently sized sedans. But a convertible and a pickup truck?
Inquiring deeper, I was able to learn why he was contemplating them. He regularly needed to haul loads to a worksite, but really wanted a convertible. Really it was coming down to the vehicle he needed (the pickup) vs. the vehicle he wanted (the convertible). Eventually, we took a test drive, and while he enjoyed that, he gradually came to the realization that he needed the pickup, and for now, the Cabrio made no sense, and went on his way.
When I look at Windows 8 today, I see an operating system that is trying so hard to be a tablet operating system that, in some ways, it has compromised it’s integrity as a desktop operating system (whereas Windows 7 was a very good desktop operating system that offered very limited value for tablet-based computing).
I worry that in the melee of transforming Windows to be so tablet-centric OS, Microsoft may in fact convince people that an iPad is all that they need to get their job done. Confused? Follow this scenario:
- Consumer wants to get new computer, goes to store (physical or online).
- Consumer sees the spectrum of Windows tablets, and sees (I believe) a reduction in the selection of “desktop” PCs.
- Consumer takes heed of how tablet-focused the ecosystem is now, and decides, “well, if a Windows tablet would suffice for me, I’d bet an iPad will too”
- Consumer walks out of the store (or browses to Apple.com) and buys an iPad.
In essence, by going “whole tablet” with Windows 8, Microsoft is in some ways pointing out the iPad to consumers that might not have felt it viable before. I’m concerned as well that in addition to the likely broad selection of devices, the range of prices, and the potential for confusion that Windows RT could inject into the consumer purchasing scenario vis-à-vis Windows 8 (“Vista Capable” ring any bells?), that consumers could well be accidentally swayed to opt instead for an iPad or a Mac in order to avoid trying to sort out which make, model, version, and specs are right for them.