The Windows 8 doomsday scenario

Two and a half decades is a long time to lead any segment of the enterprise technology business. Is the clock running out for Microsoft?

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Rather than allowing for a gentle transition, Microsoft opted for the baseball bat to the kneecap and even actively removed API elements that would allow third parties to resurrect the Start menu in Windows 8. All this despite having had a recent model of success to learn from: Apple's complete renovation of its OS and even its processor architecture over a period of several years, while at the same time maintaining concurrent operation, emulation, and a clear path through the woods.

That said, I have to believe Microsoft has an unannounced update waiting in the wings that would restore the classic Start menu if the furor over its absence reaches a high enough pitch. I mean, it would be horribly irresponsible if that were not the case. In IT, we live and breathe change and turmoil. We adapt to new APIs, new frameworks, new elements of computing on a daily basis.

However, the vast majority of the computer-using business community does not. To them, the computer is nothing more than a tool, not something to be carefully inspected, contemplated, and relearned; it's stable, familiar, and functional. Give a carpenter a saw without a handle and see how well that works.

As if annoying the end-user wasn't enough, Microsoft chose to throw this mess onto its server operating system as well, forcing administrators into the warped Metro world. Because clearly, nothing is more enticing to a Windows admin than messing around with sexy, flickering Metro panels (click me! click me!) while fighting an emergent problem. This specifically is a hard pill to swallow because what I've seen of Windows Server 2012 is good stuff on the back end. Marrying it to a disturbing mobile phone UI is just sad.

The culmination of all of these decisions may be like a NASCAR crash during the last few laps where the front runners go down in flames, and the cars in the back of the pack are suddenly viewing the winner's circle. If Microsoft's fortunes play out this way, and we have another Vista or worse, it may not be just a bump in the road for Redmond. It may be the beginning of the end for the company that was so successful with the Start menu but couldn't figure out a way to move forward with new innovation and adapt to changing times. Huh -- sounds a lot like a company called Novell back in the '90s.

If Microsoft's future does bend this way, don't be surprised to see amazingly unlikely players moving into the corporate data center and desktop. Android? Mac? Cloud? It's all possible, and if any number of brilliant companies step into that vacuum like a young, lithe Microsoft did 20 years ago, we'll all be remembering how it used to be when Microsoft ruled the roost.

This story, "The Windows 8 doomsday scenario," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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