Microsoft bills Windows 8 as a “reimagining” of the personal computer market’s dominant operating system, but still has a lot to do before the makeover captures the imagination of most consumers, a poll has shown.
The phone survey of nearly 1,200 adults in the US by The Associated Press and GfK found 52% had not even heard of Windows 8, leading up to Friday’s release of the redesigned software.
Among the people who knew something about the new operating system, 61% had little or no interest in buying a new laptop or desktop computer running on Windows 8, according to the poll.
Only about a third – 35% – of the people who had heard about the new system believed it would be an improvement.
Engineer Chris Dionne, 43, of Waterbury, Connecticut, had already seen Windows 8 and it did not persuade him to abandon or upgrade his laptop running on Windows 7, the previous version of the operating system released in 2009.
“I am not real thrilled they are changing things around,” he said. “Windows 7 does everything I want it to. Where is the return on my investment to learn a new OS (operating system)?”
Microsoft usually releases a new version of Windows every two or three years, but it is different this time around.
Windows 8 is the most radical redesign of the operating system since 1995 and some analysts consider the software to be Microsoft’s most important product since co-founder Bill Gates won the contract to build an operating system for IBM’s first personal computer in 1981.
Microsoft is hoping the way Windows 8 looks and operates will appeal to the growing number of people embracing the convenience of smartphones and tablets.
The consumer ambivalence, however, was even more pronounced when it came to Microsoft’s new tablet computer, Surface, which was built to show off Windows 8’s versatility.
Sixty-nine per cent of the poll’s respondents expressed little or no interest in buying a Surface, which Microsoft is hoping will siphon sales from Apple’s pioneering iPad and other popular tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7.
Microsoft is in the early stages of an estimated billion-dollar marketing campaign that will include a siege of television commercials to promote Windows 8 to a wider audience.
But that still might not be enough to sway long-time Windows users such as Mary Sweeten, who is 75 and not eager to learn the nuances of a new operating system. She is comfortable with her current desktop computer running on Windows 7.
“I am not technologically savvy like all these young kids,” said Ms Sweeten, of Camdenton, Missouri. “I like something I am used to and can get around on without too much trouble. Sometimes when you get these new (systems), you wish you could go back to the old one.”
Windows 8 represents Microsoft’s attempt to adapt to a technological shift that is empowering more people to use smartphones and tablets to surf the web and handle other simple computing tasks.
The revamped system can be controlled by touching a device’s display screen and greets users with a mosaic of tiles featuring an array of dynamic applications instead of the old start menu and desktop tiles.
In an effort to protect its still-lucrative PC franchise, Microsoft designed Windows 8 so it can still be switched into a desktop mode that relies on a keyboard and mouse for commands.
Microsoft felt it had to gamble on a radical redesign to fend off the competitive threats posed by Apple, which has emerged as the world’s most valuable company on the strength of its iPhone and iPad.
Google is a threat too. It has used its four-year-old Android operating system to become an influential force in the mobile computing movement.
Despite the growing popularity of smartphones, Microsoft remains deeply entrenched in people’s lives. The poll found 80% of respondents with personal computers in their homes relied on earlier versions of Windows compared with only 12% that operate on Apple’s Mac system.
Windows is even more widely used in offices, but 90% of companies relying on the operating system are expected to hold off switching to the new operating system until 2014, according to a study by the research firm Gartner.
But Jim Beske, 43, of West Fargo, North Dakota, is eager to install Windows 8 on the home computer he bought a year ago.
He has seen how Windows 8 works in his job as a network engineer and considers it a nice improvement.
“They have made it much simpler,” he said. “I don’t know about the tiling so much; that’s something I think younger people will like more. But once people get in front of it, I think they will understand it.”