The expression “kids say the darndest things” gets just about anyone under the age of 10 off the hook for bizarre remarks, but Microsoft PR is likely looking for someway to spin Steve Ballmer’s latest comments into this category as well following a recent interview at the Gartner Symposium. During the one-on-one with ZDnet’s Larry Dignan, Ballmer claimed that “the next version of Windows” was Microsoft’s “riskiest bet”. Given that such a large percentage of Microsoft’s revenue comes from Windows, this probably wasn’t the best thing to admit in a public forum, but his honesty certainly does give us lots to write about!
This begs the question, why is Steve so worried about Windows 8? ZDnet’s Mary Jo Foley speculated that it could be because Microsoft’s next operating system is rumored to be a radical departure from Windows 7, but since nothing has been officially confirmed by the company, we still have very little to go on. Leaked feature slides claim Windows 8 is going to be faster booting, have more advanced biometric security support, and maybe even an app store. Sure these are interesting features to a select few, but not exactly what most people would consider “risky”.
The more likely explanation is simply the natural fear built into Microsoft after the launch of Windows Vista. In many ways Vista failed because they tried to change core aspects of the operating system too quickly, and the compatibility problems caused a backlash that they are only now starting to recover from.
So should they make radical changes and risk another Vista? Or should they simply continue tweaking the UI and risk not making a compelling case to upgrade in two years time?