If selling and buying operating systems were a football game, Dell and enterprises might be called for piling on, because within the last several days both of them have given big thumbs-downs to Windows 8. This is just the latest in a long series of bad news for the newest version of Windows.
Last week, Dell announced its quarterly earnings and it was just about all bad news. Revenue declined two percent compared to a year earlier, and profits were down 79 percent. PC sales were hit hard, with sales down 9 percent compared to a year previous, and profits falling 65 percent.
In a call with analysts, Brian Gladden, Dell's CFO, blamed Dell's problems in part on Windows 8, saying
"Windows 8 has been, from our standpoint, not necessarily the catalyst to drive accelerated growth that we had hoped it would be."
That's a byzantine-like way of saying that PC sales have been hurt by Windows 8. It wasn't the first time Dell blamed Windows 8 for its woes. In March, Dell had this to say in a filing with the Security and Exchange Commission:
"The difficult environment faced by the Company as a result of its underperformance relative to a number of its competitors [includes] ... the uncertain adoption of the Windows 8 operating system."
Also last week, David Johnson, an analyst with Forrester Research, told Computerworld that Windows 8 is a "non-starter" for enterprises:
"Enterprises just don't see Windows 8 having value. "They don't see the value in the changes in Windows 8 [compared to Windows 7]...Windows 8 is a non-starter in the enterprise because of the UI changes."
All this is just the latest in a continuing string of bad news for Windows 8. Last week, a Gartner report found that PC sales in Western Europe fell in the first quarter in the biggest decline the continent has ever seen, more than 20 percent. Gartner blamed Windows 8. Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in the report:
"The first quarter of 2013 brought the worst quarterly decline in Western Europe since Gartner started tracking PC shipments in this region. Wide availability of Windows 8-based PCs could not boost consumer PC purchases during the quarter. Although the new Metro-style user interface suits new form factors, users wonder about its suitability for traditional PCs -- non-touchscreen desktops and notebooks."
None of this should be a surprise to Microsoft. It took a big gamble in designing an operating sytem more for touch than traditional computers, and bolting it onto an operating system designed for keyboards and mice.
The release of Windows 8.1 (once called Windows Blue) later this year will be designed in part to make Windows 8 easier to use on traditional computers. It may include some form of a Start button, and possibly a boot-to-the-desktop option as well.
But those will be relatively minor changes. The Windows 8 you see today is largely the Windows 8 you're likely to see after Windows 8.1 is released. More than a glorified service pack will be required to reboot Window sales. For that, I think we'll have to wait for Windows 9.