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As you might expect, the discussion over Gartner’s Windows is Collapsing presentation reverberated across the Internet. No doubt, the era of desktop PC dominance is ending; users are interacting with more computers than ever, but as cell phones, DVRs, and airline check-in kiosks. Windows won’t ever be the center of the computing universe like it once was. What canMicrosoft (NSDQ: MSFT) do to prevent, or at least slow, the decline?
PCs and Windows are not going away. Desktop and notebook PCs are flexible devices that can do just about anything. PC users desperately want a stable, fast, and reliable computer. But Windows is just the operating system; a functional PC depends on third-party applications, hardware, and drivers as well. That “ecosystem” is what has made the PC so ubiquitous, but it has also made the PC industry rather chaotic.
Microsoft has has tried to adapt Windows so that it can take advantage of the trends and grab share from other markets like gaming, music, and video entertainment. Yet the end result is usually a less-satisfying experience than the equivalent non-PC product; a PC with Windows Media Center is not a TiVo, and a PC with 3D games is not an XBox or a Wii. Even when Microsoft gets its part right, third-party hardware and software often harshes the buzz.
The bloat problem has gotten so bad that when Microsoft looked to deliver a version of Windows on the Asus Eee PC this year, it had to snub Vista and make an exception to its imminent-death proclamation regarding XP. This constant bloat needs to stop. There is no reason that the basic Windows operating system should need massive resources. Anything that does need that kind of power–for example, a media player or 3D graphics subsystem–should be optional.
On another front, Microsoft should realize that spurious changes to the user interface are hostile to users who already know the previous version. Vista renamed the Add/Remove Programs icon in Control Panel to Programs and Features. Why? By changing the interface unnecessarily, Microsoft is just frustrating their installed base and making it easier for users to justify a search for alternatives like Macs and Linux.
So to shore up Windows against imminent collapse, I suggest a simple three-step process. 1) Trim down the bloat that was added in Vista, and to a lesser extent with XP. 2) Redouble efforts to work with third-party hardware and software makers so that the final end product works well. 3) Stop changing things without a darned good reason; make Windows a familiar and stable friend instead of a crazy neighbor.
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