New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is just entering the honeymoon phase as Microsoft CEO. But if Windows 9 doesn't right Micrsoft's listing ship, don't be surprised if Nadella gets jettisoned for a new CEO.
There's no doubt that the Windows 8 disaster led to Steve Ballmer's resignation. Creating a single operating system with two interfaces aimed at two different audiences pleased no one. Consumers have stayed away. Enterprises have stayed away. Windows 8 was supposed to save Microsoft in mobile, but Windows Phone remains mired with around a 4% market share in the U.S. and under 1% market share in China — the two largest smartphone markets in the world. And Windows tablets sold so poorly that Microsoft was forced to take a $900 million writeoff on unsold Surface RT inventory.
It couldn't have come at a worse time, just when desktop and laptop sales have been shrinking, and tablets and smartphones taking off. Rather than stave off the decline of traditional PCs, Windows 8 helped increase it. And it did nothing to help Microsoft in mobile.
Windows 9 will likely be the last chance for Microsoft to get on track with salvaging what it can of the desktop and laptop future, and making serious inroads into mobile. If it gets Windows 9 wrong, there little chance that Microsoft will return to its glory days. Some people expect good things, pointing out that Microsoft tends to follow a dud of an operating system with a winner: Windows XP after the bomb of Windows ME, and Windows 7 after the fiasco of Windows Vista. But success will come down to vision, hard work, and learning from the past, not some imaginary rule about a good operating system always following a bad one.
Even though development of Windows 9 is well under way, for better or worse Nadella will be judged by it. If it's a great operating system, he'll cement his power at Microsoft for years to come. But if it falters, he might not be able to survive long after it, given the dire straits the company would be in.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.