Windows 8 isn't so bad, but the damage has been done

I have used Windows 8 for a couple of weeks now on a desktop PC, and I have to say that I don't know what all the fuss is about. The start menu has been been replaced with a start screen, but once you get past the fact that it now takes up the whole screen, the functionality is pretty much the same: you organise your apps, search for them, and launch them. The charm bar is a little awkward on a multi-monitor setup, but I only use it to shutdown the PC, so it's not a big problem. The selection of Windows 8 apps is uninspiring to say the least, but since so many of these apps are just pretty wrappers around web pages that work fine with a large monitor, keyboard and mouse, I don't really feel like I am missing out on anything.

The real problem for Microsoft is not that Windows 8 is bad at what it does, but that the rise of Apple and Android have dispelled the notion that Microsoft is the PC.

For the majority of people, there was no distinction between the PC and Windows. Macs were in people's peripheral vision, Linux was unheard of, and the concept of not using Windows on a PC was like the idea of not using a steering wheel in a car.

Then came the iPhone, followed by the rise of the tablets. And suddenly everyday people were breaking the link between Microsoft products and "computing". Email no longer means Outlook. Web browsing no longer means IE. Word processing no longer means Word. People now realise that they could use a computer in an enjoyable and productive way without relying on Microsoft applications and operating systems. So much so that it gave rise to the idea of "bring your own device".

Microsoft held the mind share of its users to a large degree because people didn't realise there was an alternative, or had no reason to switch even if they were aware that alternatives existed. Apple (with Android riding shotgun) not only made people aware of an alternative, but also made people want to switch.

And with that, the Microsoft spell was broken.

The downside to having a software ecosystem so intricately entwined is that once the dominoes start falling, they don't stop. If you have no need for IE and Office, you have no need for Windows (Windows RT especially). If you have no need for Outlook, you have no need for Windows Server. If you can bring your own device to work, you have no need for a desktop.

I'm not suggesting that Microsoft is going anywhere. But it will have to work hard to reverse the increasing notion that its products are something that you are forced to use, as opposed to the products that you want to use.
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