I am astounded at press reports and commentary surrounding Windows 8.
When I first got into the business in the '70s, I started reading Computerworld, at the time the most important weekly in the computer business. I didn't know much and I took a lot of what I read at face value. Soon, however, I noticed that IBM received a lot of coverage (natural for the time) but also a lot of editorial coverage, much of it negative. It took me even longer to realize that this was deliberate. Controversy sells. If even a wisp of smoke is detected, even if there is no certainty that it is, in fact, smoke, the editorial fan can whip up the fire.
IBM, as the largest computer company on the planet, represented the broadside of a barn - easy to hit if reason could be found.
Today Microsoft is the barn. I'm seeing the same thing again - a sky is falling journalistic approach that seems very widespread. Why? Because there is no downside. A computer journalist can write today that Windows 8 is terrible and won't sell well, then say it's selling well because new PC buyers are being forced into it, then say it's not so bad after all and people seem to like it. And just like IBM did 40 years ago, Microsoft maintains a modestly low profile limited to preventing any fuel from landing on the fire.
We are thus confronted with mainstream computer media reporting that Microsoft sold 4 million copies on the first weekend but that it is too soon to tell what will happen, then a mere two weeks later reporting that Microsoft claims 40 million copies have been sold but that the exact nature of these sales cannot yet be verified. Meanwhile, pundits have all manner of complaints about the new OS and are only too happy to report that a group has been formed to urge Microsoft to restore the Start button.
All this caterwauling is masking the true import of Windows 8, the powerful story it represents for Microsoft as a company and for its customers, especially including its consumer retail customers.
The Tile Takes Over
Did you notice that Microsoft's logo has changed? The logo now includes what resembles the old Window logo with four colors but this time it is a flat, two-dimensional rendering of four squares. Make no mistake - these are tiles.
That's right, tiles. With Windows 8, tiles now grace every platform - desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone. They even drive the design of many of Microsoft's Web sites! It's a pervasive identity change.
This is no accident, it's a statement. It's a Windows everywhere statement. Those of you who, like me, have a Windows 8 Phone have probably already experienced this, especially if you happen to get your mail through a Microsoft Exchange account. The integration is phenomenal. It's not just that mail and contacts are available on the PC and on the phone, it's that the total email experience is the same. The mail app on the Windows 8 Phone is not Outlook, of course, but if you use Outlook on your PC it is not hard to figure out where things are in the Windows Mail App. I use a lot of folders in Outlook. Folders are not immediately obvious in the mail app but I quickly found them because I knew they must be there.
It's true for Office apps, too. No, the Windows 8 Phone apps for handling Office documents do not have the same capability as their full-fledged siblings, but they can certainly allow you to view the documents cleanly and even edit them. I expect this sort of integration to get better over time and it will become the glue that truly binds a collection of devices into an integrated system.
The change to the logo is thus a signal that Microsoft has an integration story unmatched by any other vendor. The key to the story is that regardless of whether you are a consumer using the cloud or an enterprise customer using your datacenter, Microsoft can offer a bottom-to-top integration story. Apple can't do it because it lacks enterprise products. IBM can't do it because it lacks products at the bottom (no PCs, tablets, or phones). Only Microsoft can tell this story.
Maybe some of the things the pundits are saying are true. My only Windows device at this point is my phone, so I can't speak to the UI issues that so many writers focus on.
But ultimately this powerful integration story will become clear. Even if Windows 8 has flaws, Windows remains a winner.