At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference this week, Tami Reller, the company's CFO and Corporate VP of Windows / Windows Live, spilled the beans about Windows 7's adoption rates and some of what the industry should expect from Windows 8. Windows 7, according to Reller, has sold at three times the rate of Windows XP with the result that "27 percent of the Internet runs on Windows 7."
We actually have no idea what that means. The Internet runs on servers, but while Windows Server 2008 R2 shares the Windows 7 kernel, that's quite a stretch for a marketing blurb. The OS is estimated to currently hold between 28-34 percent of the Windows market, but "The Internet" isn't the same as "The PC industry." Microsoft's own decision to port Windows 8 to the ARM architecture is proof that the company is aware of such trends.
The Windows 8 Metro UI, as demo'd earlier this year
As far as Windows 8 is concerned, Reller notes that "We designed Windows 8 from the ground up to be excellent for touch-only tablets and to work well with the keyboard and mouse." As Microsoft has previously demonstrated, the Windows 8 UI is built around touch, the 'app' concept, and sharing data across devices. Exactly how this will translate to the keyboard+mouse and the more traditional Windows UI is unknown--for all that Windows 7 was absolutely unsuited to touch-based interfaces, Windows 8 will need to retain the conventions Microsoft has previously established. Reller continues:
In both of our Windows 8 previews, we talked about continuing on with the important trend that we started with Windows 7, keeping system requirements either flat or reducing them over time. Windows 8 will be able to run on a wide range of machines because it will have the same requirements or lower.
For our business customers, your customers, this is an important element because the ability of Windows 8 to run on Windows 7 devices ensures that the hardware investments that these customers are making today will be able to take advantage of Windows 8 in the future...
[L]et me leave you with one key takeaway, which I think really defines the opportunity I talked about earlier. And that is that the path to Windows 8 starts with Windows 7. It's the perfect time for customers to update their environment, modern hardware, a modern OS, modern applications and a modern browser.
Reller's comments regarding minimum hardware requirements are scarcely surprising. Windows 8 is designed to scale into mobile environments in ways previous Windows products didn't, while mobile hardware is simultaneously becoming more powerful by the year. As a result, there's precious little reason for the company to change its hardware targets. Even if this wasn't the case, Microsoft's last attempt to really raise the minimal standard bar backfired in absolutely epic fashion.
It'll be interesting. Of course, 'interesting' is a very broad word
Reller's comments hint at a Windows 8
design that's completely different than anything we've seen from Microsoft before. Power users, IT admins, and those of us who prefer standard multitasking as opposed to flipping between two fullscreen applications may have reason to be concerned, but Windows 8 could be the company's greatest UI leap since Windows 95.