There was a time when Microsoft and Windows were necessary parts of life if you wanted to truly get the most out of computing, and even the Internet. It is now 2012, have things changed or is Microsoft really still a needed part of our lives?

In the 90s Mac was a platform that was arguably falling apart, OS/2 was quickly losing support, and alternatives like BEOS just didn’t receive enough wide support. Then their was Linux/Unix… it was both hard to use and didn’t really have vendor support. This left Windows. Windows was your gateway to the Internet, games, and other high-end applications. Beyond Apple, there were no real alternatives.

Today you can have easy access to apps, games, and the Internet from a variety of devices such as game consoles, smartphones, tablets, and of course traditional computers. Even TVs are starting to offer access to applications and even the Internet.

As far as OS alternatives? You have Mac OS X, which is actually not half-bad in reality (though I realize not everyone has love for Apple), and then you have various Linux distros that are not only much easier to use then they once were, but many offer tons of great applications and through software like WINE you can run MS Office and even many Windows games. Many vendors even have Ubuntu (linux) as an optional install over Windows.

Certain consumer types like “hardcore gamers” and “Windows-centric software businesses” still have a major need for Windows, but the rest of the world (which is becoming the majority)? Windows 8 is hoping to change some of this, but is it too late and have times changed too much?

Yes and no. Microsoft is no longer NEEDED by most folks in 2012. Sure, MS Office is better than alternatives like LibreOffice, but for many of us it is certainly “good enough”. I use Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Ubuntu 11.10, just to give you some background.

Because of this site, and my gaming habits, I use Windows primarily. Recently I decided to use nothing but Ubuntu though, and found myself having few problems. Many great games, like World Of Warcraft, worked just fine in Linux using some tinkering and a program called “WINE”.

So if a more ‘core’ PC user can life without Windows, at the sacrifice of a few games, so can most average consumers. This is why Microsoft is attempting to change its strategy with Windows 8 by letting folks know, “Hey Windows is for everything, not just old school PCs”. Bringing in news apps, touch, and other features are ways Microsoft hopes to make users feel they NEED Windows again and that it isn’t just one option out of many.

I’m not sure if anyone will ever really NEED Windows anymore though, even with their best efforts to bring change in Windows 8. Does that mean Windows isn’t still a very good and useful operating system? No, it’s a great OS still, my point is that we are now living in a time where Windows is one option, not THE option.

Some will argue that there has always been options, but not for the average user, at least in my opinion. Today I consider Windows my option of course, but I recognize my Xbox 360, PS3, smartphone, and Ubunutu PCs as alternative sources for many of the same type of content I can get into with Windows.

So what do you think?

Is Windows still NEEDED, or just a great option out of many possible paths?

If it is no longer exclusively needed, what can Microsoft do to get that kind of status back, if anything?

Share your thoughts below.

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  • Brian

    Great article!!! This is conundrum I am facing. I moved to the PC world in 92, after starting my slow move away from Amiga. I loved my Amiga but soon, the coolest games were on the PC (even if they were in EGA). I’ve been through every Windows release since (I was one of the few who had no problems with Windows ME and loved it.) I started using a Windows Mobile device in 2004 and finally went Android in 2010 because the wait for Windows Phone 7 was so long. Plus, at the time, VPN and Outlook syncing were very important to me and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why Microsoft left those out (Especially Outlook syncing.) I started syncing my Outlook with my Android phone via Companion link but finally “went to the dark side” and decided to let Google sync my contacts and calendar. Missed the task syncing but finally filled that gap with Cozi (and OneNote). I did pick up an ASUS Transformer Prime and while it is a joy to “consume” media, I still can’t find practical uses for it. My work is a Microsoft world. I need Office, I need visual studio, I need my video editing programs. Nothing comes close to that with my Android devices. I’ve been tempted a few times to “Get A Mac” for my videos but don’t have the money to invest. So, here I am, stuck with several devices and still desire for less devices and one powerful mobile solution. I simply can’t wait to see what Windows 8 tablets will be like. If they make an “Transformer” like Windows 8 tablet, my world may finally be simplified.

  • Damianmcnasty

    Windows is needed in the corporate/business world (for Office etc.) but not the average world (where you get by on tablets). Microsoft thinks that people will jump at Windows tablets because they can run Office etc. but by ignoring tablets for so long people have got used to running non-MS office applications (Smart Office, Quick Office etc.) on their tablets. People suddenly realize that they can do most things without Windows. This is dangerous for MS as the average user no longer needs Windows in 2012 while more corporate/business people are finding ways of doing windows-type things on their Ipads. Microsoft say you need a Windows tablet to do this and that but I’ve seen my professor doing most PC things on his tablet. 2011 was the beginning of the post-pc era. Legacy programme makers must convert to apps or face a dire future where they cater for a select and shrinking market and it is the market that is ultimately going to determine the winner and who dominates the market now? Apple.

    • Brian

      I have to mention Quick Office…I have a MAJOR problem with it on my Android tablet. If I am entering text in a document and I happen to walk away, do something else and come back after the tablet has gone to sleep, it totally closes the app and I’ve lost ALL I’ve typed since the last save…not sure if this is an Adroid problem or QuickOffice but since then, I’ve broken out my laptop for “real” work…

  • Aa

    Yes. Microsoft Windows is needed because is so so much better that the other. I try to use other OS and still far away from Microsoft Windows & Office. And Windows 8 brings capability that Linux is not in the same level.