An executive in Samsung’s memory business offered some harsh words for Windows 8 at the start of last weekend, becoming the latest in an increasingly long line of industry insiders to blame Microsoft for faltering sales of new PCs. Most troubling, perhaps, is that he uttered the dreaded “V” word, comparing Windows 8 to Windows Vista.
“The global PC industry is steadily shrinking despite the launch of Windows 8,” Samsung President Jun Dong-soo is quoted as saying during a meeting with reporters on Friday. “I think the Windows 8 system is no better than the previous Windows Vista platform.”
Windows Vista is widely viewed as a disastrous speed bump in the otherwise stellar rise of Windows, the most popular software platform ever created. But Vista is also widely misunderstood: As a major foundational change for Windows, it was the rare release designed to require leading-edge hardware at the time, and it wouldn’t run well on many existing PCs. Microsoft quickly fixed the performance issues, however, but the stigma remained even as Vista went on to sell several hundred million units over its three-year lifespan.
But in a business where perception is reality, Vista is correctly or not seen as a stinkbomb. And with Microsoft offering yet another foundational change in Windows 8, the one thing the devices and services firm wants to avoid is “another Vista,” real or imagined.
Sadly, the parallels with Vista are fairly obvious.
Designed for a new generation of touch-based hardware devices, many of which are tablets, Windows 8 is a better fit for expensive new PCs than users’ existing computers, just like Vista. As noted previously, Microsoft fundamentally altered the foundational core of Windows in this release, just as it did with Vista, in this case driving a strange new hybrid user experience that isn’t very friendly to the 1.3 billion existing PC users in the world.
Yes, pedantry fans, these kinds of comparisons are never perfect. For example, Windows 8 does run just fine on existing hardware of its day, unlike Vista, and even offers some performance advantages. So Microsoft learned at least some lessons from its past. But the fact remains that consumer acceptance of Windows 8 is on par with that of Vista. Which is to say that consumers are at best confused and at worst outraged by the changes foisted on them. Just as with Vista.
Jun Dong-soo also dumped on Microsoft’s Surface efforts. In this criticism, he joins another growing list of industry executives who aren’t too happy that long-time partner Microsoft is now a competitor as well. (Acer in August went ballistic over the Surface lineup, though I should add that Acer has a long history of such complaints.)
“Microsoft’s rollout of its Windows Surface tablet is seeing lackluster demand,” he said. “Meanwhile, previous vigorous pitches by Intel and Microsoft for thinner ultra-books simply failed and I believe that’s mostly because of the less-competitive Windows platform.”
Microsoft is allegedly racing to address concerns about Windows 8, though the company has never publicly confirmed it is doing so. Rumors abound about a Windows 8 update, code-named Blue, that many feel will right the wrongs of Windows 8 much as the SP release did for Windows Vista. And the firm will purportedly update the “core” apps in Windows 8—which are routinely panned for being incomplete functionally—as soon as this month. That said, a very trusted source at Microsoft told me that some of these apps, like Xbox Music, won’t be “fixed” until as late as June or July. That’s only a month or two before “Blue” is set to ship. And a recent report claims that Microsoft is lowering the price of its Windows and Office bundle for hardware makers that wish to ship smaller Windows 8 devices that can compete with 7" tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7.