(Originally posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013)
Ed Bott’s column this morning does a good job of explaining how, with Windows 8.1 (Blue), Microsoft is going hard-core for the tablet market. What he doesn’t go on to say, and what is the unfortunate corollary, is that they are actively using Windows 8/8.1 to drive users off of non-touch systems on to touch-enabled systems.
With Windows 8, Microsoft redefines tablets as PCs, with their tablets having the benefits of PCs (keyboard, mouse, printing, corporate network access, etc.). Keyboard and mouse maybe there on your tablet/PC, but they aren’t your main interface to the OS – touch is.
Windows 8.1 is slightly more usable on a non-touch system than Windows 8. Most of the improvements, and there are a lot of them, are for touch systems or for all systems. The Start button is not a big deal, it’s just a visual cue. A real concession would have been a Start menu. You can get this from many 3rd party utilities, but such things are never widely used.
I was at the Windows 8 rollout event in New York and Microsoft then-President Steve Sinofsky made an interesting statement, that Microsoft believed that all systems should be touch-enabled. If you go to the web sites of the major OEMs you can see that touch systems are beginning to dominate the offerings. Even the desktop systems are generally offering touch screens as options. Eventually, I’m guessing by this time next year, everything from the major OEMs will be touch, at least in the developed world.
In the short term, large businesses with clout can continue to buy non-touch systems and install Windows 7 using their site licenses. Even a lot of smaller businesses will be able to. Even some resourceful consumers can; I just did it myself, finding an Acer AX1470-UR11P with Win7 from Walmart.com (for my Mom – about $390 including shipping). But it’s not easy. Go into a Staples or Best Buy or look online and almost everything you see, including plain old desktop computers, runs Windows 8. I find it very unpleasant to use on such a systems.
Microsoft doesn’t care. Non-touch systems are the past. They’re designing for the future.