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.