So is Windows 8 Microsoft's ‘biggest failure ever’?

There are lots of questions concerning Windows 8 -- does Microsoft need to make changes to it? Is the OS responsible for the death of the PC? How many copies has it actually sold? And last Friday financial-services company The Motley Fool asked the question in my headline, which I know a lot of people have been pondering too -- is Windows 8 Microsoft's biggest failure ever?

Like all tech firms, the software giant has had its fair share of hits and misses. Microsoft isn’t the greatest risk taker out there, but it does make gambles occasionally that don’t pay off and it has experienced some major flops over the years. People talk about Vista, but there have been plenty of other past disasters, including Windows Me, Microsoft Bob, Zune, Kin… But is Windows 8 its worst catastrophe to date?

As always, it’s a matter of opinion. There’s no question that Windows 8 hasn’t been a success on any real level. Sure Microsoft made money from it, selling those 60 million licenses early on, but Windows 8 is an incredibly important operating system for Microsoft. It’s what ties the company’s entire future together -- computers, tablets, smartphones -- and if it doesn’t work, the whole company strategy will inevitably start to crumble.

In this video, Andrew Tonner, a tech/telecom analyst at The Motley Fool discusses whether Microsoft is a good tech investment (spoiler alert -- he recommends steering well clear), and he certainly doesn’t pull any punches in his analysis. He discusses the shrinking PC market, touching on the IDC and Gartner reports, and admits that a weak economy and factors like slowing growth in emerging markets are partially to blame, before laying into Windows 8 for its role in the decline. He states that "people simply don’t seem to like the platform very much", talks about how precarious Microsoft’s position is, and then delivers his killer line:

There’s a reason this company basically has generated zero returns for investors over the last ten years, and that’s because they [Microsoft] simply don’t get where technology is going any more.

Ouch.

Personally I think that’s more than a tad harsh. Windows 8 was inspired because Microsoft saw where technology was going and wanted to get there fast. It just may not have chosen the best route in its scramble to embrace tablets and touch.

BetaNews readers love a great debate, especially on the topic of Windows 8, and Andrew Tonner has raised two interesting topics I’d love to get your views on. Do you think Windows 8 is Microsoft’s biggest failure, or is it just a slow burner? And do you agree with him that the firm doesn’t get where technology is going any more, or is he just plain wrong? As always, leave your comments below.

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