You wish you could fail like Microsoft

The sharks are in the water smelling Microsoft blood. It's the company's "New Coke" moment. Windows 8 is too little too late (hey, that rhymes).

Over the years Microsoft has had a number of true product failures, genuine losers, but fewer than you'd think. I'd certainly count Microsoft BOB as one of these; BOB was an attempt at a cartoony, fun interface to Windows that was laughed off the market in short order. (Microsoft reps told me at the time that the focus groups loved it.)

But Windows 8? We should all fail like this. If the government failed like this we'd be running a trillion dollar surplus. Today Microsoft announced sales of more than 100 million Windows 8 licenses. ("This number includes Windows licenses that ship on a new tablet or PC, as well as upgrades to Windows 8.")

During last year's Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple claimed there were 66 million Mac users. I don't think there are 100 million Windows 8 users, maybe not even 66 million, but surely there are tens of millions by now. That's a big market and translates to hundreds of millions of revenue for Microsoft.

The latest NetMarketShare numbers tend to support this view. Windows 8 is already substantially ahead of any one version of OS X and on a trajectory to pass all of them combined before long. These numbers are for desktop operating systems:

  • Windows 7: 44.72%
  • Windows XP: 38.31%
  • Windows Vista: 4.75%
  • Windows 8: 3.82%
  • Mac OS X 10.8: 2.82%
  • Mac OS X 10.6: 1.82%
  • Mac OS X 10.7: 1.78%
  • Linux: 1.21%

Before you say it, I know NetMarketShare's numbers are somewhat opaque, but they're pretty much all there is in the public domain and they roughly make sense to me. The biggest anomaly in the list above is that Linux has 1.21 percent of desktop users. That can't be true. Another interesting, debatable point: NetMarketShare doesn't include Windows 8 in the Mobile/Tablet numbers, so anyone using it as a tablet is counted as a desktop user. Microsoft's convergence of the two uses in one operating system messes with NetMarketShare's zeitgeist.

By the way, back to the tablet numbers above: See the number just above Windows 8? That's the near-universally reviled Windows Vista, still at 4.75 percent, more than Lion and Mountain Lion combined. Two years ago NetMarketShare had Vista at 10.46 percent of desktops. Many hundreds of millions of Vista licenses were sold. Sure, it was a bad version and generated ill-will, but Microsoft made a ton of money from the OS. Any other company would love to have a failure like Windows Vista.

No doubt there are a lot of mistakes in Windows 8. But is any product that sells in the tens or hundreds of millions a failure? We should all fail this badly.

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