What if Windows 10 fails?

For the first time since Windows 3.1, the success or failure of a new Microsoft operating system version carries consequences.

"So you've got this huge swath in the laptop market between, say, $300 and $1,000, where... it's Windows."

"Even though I think Chrome OS is kind of the best runner-up, it's not a super-attractive option for most of the OEMs out there,” said Jackdaw's Dawson.

“Most have dabbled with Chrome OS to some extent anyway, but I think they recognise it has somewhat niche appeal, unless something changes pretty dramatically there.

“Any Linux distribution seems to be a real long-shot, frankly. It means people learning a whole new way of working with the computer. And if they're willing to do that, they may be willing to consider using a Mac."

One of Windows' greatest assets, the experts believe, has been its familiarity for users. Much of that familiarity is presented by its software base, and its resistance to the idea of change even in the presence of a compelling new form factor and runtime environment.

"Windows 8 created a discontinuity in the user experience that neither consumers nor enterprises were able to get past," said IDC's Hilwa.

"People were upset that they have to learn new things; meanwhile there are alternatives in the form of cheaper, lighter, and more usable tablets. Microsoft underestimated the reaction to change, which a bit befuddling.

“Tech firms in general, being pre-occupied with 'disruption,' seem to have a blind spot for the value of familiarity."

"It is unlikely that Windows 10 will fail," he declared, "as long as it provides people the ability to use the system in the same way they are familiar with."

Making mobile, home

While PCs might linger on in some form, the failure of a cross-platform Windows 10 could mean Windows Phone joins the Newton and the TRS-80 Model 100 among the ranks of mobile relics.

For that reason, among others, Jan Dawson believes next Wednesday's Windows 10 rollout event in Redmond, Washington, expected to be geared toward consumers, will focus primarily on Windows Phone.

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