Microsoft's next-generation version of Windows is causing angst among tech enthusiasts because of its radical, touch-centric UI and potential looming delays. But Windows 8 faces more immediate problems thanks to a bizarre report from the analysts at IDC. According to these guys, it doesn't matterwhen Windows 8 ships because the new OS will be "largely irrelevant to traditional PC users.
Put another way, that's everybody, since there no real Windows tablet or device users to speak of yet. So what IDC is really saying is that Windows 8 doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense as an upgrade for the billion-plus people using today's PCs.
"Windows 8 will be largely irrelevant to the users of traditional PCs, and we expect effectively no upgrade activity from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in that form factor," an IDC research paper about tech predictions for 2012 notes.
But does it matter? Even if IDC is dead-on correct, the vast majority of Windows sales go to users of new computers. And with Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to expand the market for PCs to include new, device-like form factors such as tablets and slates.
Here, too, IDC has some worries. The firm notes that Microsoft's fate in the tablet market of 2012 will be "disappointing," though it does expect the software giant to deliver Windows 8 in time for the 2012 holiday season.
"There will be intense scrutiny on Microsoft's ability to deliver a successful tablet experience aboard both x86-based tablets and on devices running ARM processors," the paper adds. "This is a tall order for Microsoft, and while the x86 tablet strategy makes sense as a transitional solution for today's PC users, it will be the ARM-based devices that need to shine and clear a high bar already set by Apple [with the iPad]."
As always, we look to Microsoft for clarity, and as has been the norm in recent years, the software giant is mum while it slowly moves toward its next Windows 8 milestone—in this case a public beta release that should ship in January or February. It's likely that Microsoft will reveal more about its strategy for Windows 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in early January, but the next bit of news could come as early as today, coincidentally: Microsoft is set to make a major Windows Store announcement today; that's the online store that will ship as part of Windows 8.