Windows 8: A Whole New Way to Connect With the Largest Online Population?

Windows 8 (W8) excites me. Firstly it’s a good-looking attempt at a multi-channel user experience and it’s finally introducing an “App Marketplace,” which gives experience/content publishers, and brands efficient access to the world’s most used device, the Windows PC. Secondly, Microsoft is embedding its massive social media platform (Messenger+Facebook) into the heart of the offering.

But let’s get real; Microsoft launched it this month, so things aren’t going to change overnight. Windows releases, historically, have been far from smooth sailing – remember Windows Me? Or Vista?

So here’s the reason why you need to watch this space and be ready to consider W8 in your digital strategy.

Sure mobile is the future, but desktop is now, and the future.

The amount of time people spend and how frequently they shop using their PCs dwarfs mobile by nearly 500 percent.

Sure, mobile is growing, but PCs made up 84 percent of all e-commerce traffic in Q2 2012. And while that is declining (93.5 percent in Q1 2011), it’s still huge. Smartphones trail miserably at 8.8 percent and tablets at 7.2 percent. (Source: Monetate’s US Ecommerce Quarterly Report)

According to StatCounter, mobile now accounts for 12 percent of global Internet traffic, and again, while it’s on the rise, that is still nothing compared to the 88 percent of Internet traffic from desktop PCs. (Source: Business Insider)

So, mobile is sexy, but desktop is still king.

Windows dominates the desktop market.

Microsoft is the biggest player in the desktop PC market, by a long way! Windows accounted for 87 percent (Win 7, Vista, and XP) of all online users in September 2012, followed by MacOSX at a measly 7.5 percent.

Now techies will know this wasn’t the smoothest transition from XP to Windows 7; many were very skeptical and it did take two years for Windows 7 to reach 50 percent+ penetration. But it happened.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Operating System Market Share

That’s huge. Eighty-seven percent of all desktop users’ traffic went through Windows; that’s 77 percent of all Internet users. Huge. Massive. Mega.

This is all thanks to Microsoft’s distribution model; it partners with everyone and their brother, enabling Microsoft to ship and manage high volumes quickly. (Side note: it’s doing the same thing in mobile.)

Why am I banging on about this? Well, the problem with a lot of stats is that they talk about unit sales – the number of devices sold – whereas this talks about actual and current usage.

A new way of delivering content to users is here and growing.

Apple launched Mac App Store for its desktop PCs early last year and with good reason – its iTunes store generated $1.9 billion in Q2 of this year. The first 24 hours of the Mac App Store Apple launch received 1 million downloads, and rounded out the year with the announcement of 100 million downloads.

Now that’s nothing, compared to the 18 billion apps downloaded from Apple’s mobile app store, but it’s a start.

And considering Windows has 11.6 times the penetration as MacOSX, that translates to a market opportunity of 1.16 billion downloads for Microsoft. That’s if it does it well, if everyone switched from their current version to W8, and if there were a pool of quality apps worth downloading.

This is all interesting because W8 has an app marketplace built into its core, called Windows Market. It’s working hard to make it easy for developers and have lots of apps on launch.

Finally, Windows 8 is part of a cross-platform social user experience.

From what we see, W8 looks like it has a consistent user experience across desktop, tablet, smartphone, and even comparable to Xbox’s experience. If that experience is seamless and integrated, it’ll be very compelling for users to stay within the Windows ecosystem, and if Microsoft transitions its massive user base to W8, it’ll have a proper crack at the mobile market – finally.

Last, but by no means least, social is baked into the core of Windows – a major weakness of Apple and Google (Microsoft’s competitors in operating system market), while Microsoft is huge in social. What? I know, it sounds weird, and it’s no Facebook, but Microsoft does have Messenger and Skype, two of the largest social networks in the world.

Then throw Xbox into the mix (assuming it integrates it) and you get another 40 million accounts on Xbox Live.

But, but, but, but. There’s a big but.

This all relies on two major things playing out well. Adoption and updates, and they’re two big caveats. Firstly, lots of people need to adopt the new version, obviously – it took Windows 7 two years to reach over 50 percent. The major factors that could slow adoption are the pace of corporate rollout, including technical, security audits, cost benefit analysis, and all kinds of things that slow down big rollouts like this, as well as the rejection of the new user experience. Quite simply put, “It’s new, I don’t like it, give me my old one back!”

Secondly, Microsoft has been particularly bad at version updates – Windows is renowned for being out of date. Google, more specifically Chrome, is amazing at updates. It happens without you even knowing it – it’s always up to date. On the other hand, Google hasn’t done it so well for Android. This is a problem because app developers need to build experiences for each version that users are active on. The more versions, the more of a pain it is among other things.

So what’s that all mean?

  1. Desktop is a huge market of users who we don’t communicate with, other than through the browser.
  2. Microsoft dominates the desktop market and is releasing an OS that will allow richer experiences to be delivered through Windows Market.
  3. It could be the spark that Windows needs to get users hooked onto Microsoft on mobile.
  4. Keep on developing great browser experiences, but watch this space.

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