Hundreds of thousands of people were amazed to find out that Microsoft released the Windows 8 developer preview completely free to everyone who wanted a copy.
People who weren’t Microsoft developers wouldn’t have to use shadier methods such as BitTorrent sites to get their hands on the next version of Windows.
But why did Microsoft do it? Steven Vaughan-Nichols from ZDNet stated that there were two main reasons for this, the first being overall buzz. The more people who hear about this new version of Windows, the more people download and try it out.
The second reason relates to Linux:
“The other reason is that Microsoft may be slow, but they’re not stupid,” Vaughan-Nichols says, “They’ve noticed over the years that Linux developers gets enormous amount of valuable feedback from users with every release. While, Microsoft won’t be open-sourcing Windows anytime this decade; they can certainly see the advantage of having potentially millions of early testers giving them feedback.”
Those are both great reasons, but Brian Proffitt from ITWorld has another theory. He thinks that since Windows 8 shares the Metro user interface with Windows Phone 7, this free release is a “tactic designed to expose Metro to more developers in the hopes of generating more interest in the Windows Phone platform, not just Windows 8.”
He also says that since it will get Metro out to more people, when anyone who has used Windows 8 uses a Windows Phone, they will know how to use the interface immediately.
“I think the bigger target here is the mobile sector,” Proffitt says, “It’s a very simple equation: generate buzz and feedback for Windows 8, sure, but more importantly get more people noticing the Metro interface.
Especially developers. If enough coders’ interest is piqued by Metro, Microsoft could get one of the two things it desperately for Windows Phone 7: apps. Without an application ecosystem like iOS and Android, there will be little consumer interest in getting an Windows Phone device.”
Proffitt does have his doubts about how well this tactic will work, “It’s not a sure thing–early adopters and technophiles are also pretty savvy about technology shortcomings and potential flaws in software. If Windows 8 fails to impress, it will reflect negatively on Windows Phone 7.
This is why, I suspect, Microsoft is not emphasizing the Metro connection between the two platforms. If Windows 8 gets panned, there’s a chance (however small) to salvage Windows Phone’s reputation.”
I think that if this was really what Microsoft was doing, this would be one of the greatest marketing tactics out there. Introduce a current smartphone’s user interface to an operating system that holds 90% of the worldwide desktop share.
Once people start using the new interface, they will get used to it and will be more inclined to use it when they see it on a Windows Phone. The reason this hasn’t worked with previous versions of Windows and Windows Mobile is because none of those operating systems were touch optimized. Windows 8 with Metro is.
Do you think giving away Windows 8 developer preview was a smart marketing tactic for Windows Phone 7?
I’m interested to hear what you have to say…