Microsoft wants you to forget Windows 8

Look to Vista for how Redmond will treat Windows 8 as it moves on to the next bright, shiny OS

As talk of the next Windows begins to build and some details of what most are calling for now either Windows 9 or Threshold come into focus, it's worthwhile to take a moment to remember Windows 8.

Because Microsoft will want everyone to forget it. And we will.

Unless the Redmond, Wash. technology company radically changes its habits, it will throw Windows 8 down a memory hole even before the successor ships. Just like it made Vista persona non grata in its official messaging in 2009, it will shove Windows 8 so far into the background that we'll need the Hubble telescope to find it.

Not that that's unusual. All companies fake amnesia to a stunning degree, even when what they want to forget -- more importantly, what they want customers to forget -- was once trumpeted with Joshua's band. Ford tossed the Edsel into the don't-mention file, Coca-Cola did the same with New Coke, Apple erased the Performa and Ping from its corporate memory, and IBM would be hard pressed to admit it ever knew the PCjr or OS/2.

It's always about next year's shiny object, not last year's.

Vista redux

To see the future for Windows 8, look at how Microsoft treated Windows Vista -- the 2007 edition that launched late and quickly garnered negative reviews that painted a reputation from which it never recovered.

In the months leading up to the launch of Windows 7, Vista's successor -- and a wildly successful one at that -- Microsoft came close to banning the word "Vista" from press releases, its most official line of communications to the media, investors, partners and customers.

From January through October 2009 -- the latter was Windows 7's launch month -- Microsoft mentioned "Vista" in just one press release headline or the single-line synopsis accompanying a headline. During the same stretch, Microsoft used "Windows 7" 16 times.

In comparison, three years later, during the January through October 2012 run-up to Windows 8's debut, Microsoft mentioned "Windows 7" in 6 press release headlines or summaries, and used "Windows 8" 14 times.

So while a failure, as judged by Microsoft, was outnumbered 16:1 in mentions, a success, also as implicitly labeled by Microsoft, was bested by only about 2:1.

Expect the former for Windows 8. In fact, it may already have started as Microsoft preps for 8's successor, called "Threshold" by long-time Windows watchers: Since the first of the year, Microsoft has mentioned "Windows 8" in its press release headlines or summaries just 6 times, on pace for 11. During all of 2013, Microsoft referenced the edition 16 times.

The second half of the year will be especially telling if, as often-in-the-know bloggers like ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley have contended, Threshold is to launch in the spring of 2015. With just over seven months until the start of March 2015, eight to April, it's coming up on the time that Microsoft changes messaging from the past to the future.

Time to go silent on Windows 8

There is evidence that Microsoft has begun deemphasizing Windows 8.

In his mission statement of July 10, CEO Satya Nadella mentioned no specific edition of Windows on the desktop, using simply "Windows" when he wasn't talking about "Windows Phone" or "Windows Server," or relegating Windows to secondary status in the newly-minted Microsoft he envisions. Windows 8 was also AWOL among the speeches Nadella and other Microsoft executives made the following week at the company's Worldwide Partners Conference, and was the subject of just three sessions out of more than 450 offered to attendees.

During this week's earnings call, Nadella referenced "Windows 8.1" just twice, both with the past tense. " In April, we released an update to Windows 8.1," he said of the refresh aimed to mollify enterprise users.

That's no surprise: Not only has Microsoft acknowledged that its share of all computing devices -- smartphones, tablets, personal computers -- now hovers at 14%, a far cry from its near monopoly as late as 2010, but the company certainly understands how poorly Windows 8 has performed even within the small segment composed of desktop and notebook computers.

The newer OS has outsold Vista, certainly, about 31% better according to calculations based on stated sales milestones that were then turned into per-month figures for Windows 8's first 16 months and Vista's first 19. But Windows 8 has lagged far behind its predecessor, Windows 7. The latter bested Windows 8 by 113% on a per-month basis calculated for its first 15 months.

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