Is Windows 8 already a failure?
According to a new survey published by USA Today, "few [Windows users] have immediate plans to upgrade" to Windows 8. The newspaper says that the results of the survey, which was conducted by Antivirus software company Avast, "underscore lukewarm response to Windows 8."
While there has been a lot of criticism of Windows 8 (including here on gdgt, where we gave the OS a "Wait to Buy" designation), is the situation necessarily as bleak for Microsoft as USA Today says? After all, most consumers don't upgrade their OSes except when they buy new computers, and businesses are even more cautious about upgrades. As of October, 40% of computers tracked by Net Applications were still running Windows XP, which was released over 11 years ago.
While it's true that consumers and businesses have been slower to embrace Windows 8 than Windows 7 at its launch three years ago -- Net Applications says that Windows 7 was on 2.3% of computers after its first month on the market, vs. just 0.45% for Windows 8 -- there's an obvious reason for that: Windows 7 was a replacement for the disastrous Windows Vista, and there was a strong incentive to upgrade. With Windows 7, however, Microsoft put together a reliable, stable operating system, and there's less of a reason for most consumers and businesses to replace it.
This doesn't mean there aren't real problems with Windows 8. These include the confusing (some would say schizophrenic) user experience created by the dual desktop/"Metro-style" environments, the disappearance of long-standing UI elements like the Start menu, the lack of any real need for the Metro environment for non-touch computers, and confusion over the real differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. And the fact is, if you don't have a touchscreen PC, there's no real reason to upgrade to Windows 8, and even if you do, it will be a while before the touch-based side of OS is mature enough to fully replace the more keyboard-centric desktop.
So, is Windows 8 a failure? No, certainly not an epic failure like Vista. But it's already clear that it's not a must-have upgrade like Windows 7, and that's reflected both in the responses to the USA Today poll and the Net Applications upgrade data. However, within a few months, it'll be difficult to buy a new PC without Windows 8 pre-installed, and in a few years, businesses may even start using it. Hopefully, by then, Microsoft will allow users to set the desktop as their default environment if they find it more suitable -- or at least bring back the Start button.
The thing that I think will really get everyone to upgrade is the speed. My Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga ($1000) boots up in 3 seconds without any modifications and everything launches instantly. Although even if it was the same speed as Windows 7, I'd use it so I could have Metro.
If one were to peer something like a decade into the future, isn't it kind of darkly humorous that one can now see a time when it will finally be the year for Linux on the desktop? True. It may only happen because Apple and Microsoft have abandoned the desktop . . . but this may represent a trend where the computing needs of power users, gamers, PC enthusiasts and geeks are marginalized. Maybe this whole Steam PC thing isn't so far fetched.
I know someone who just got a brand new laptop for work last month (came with Windows 7) and he had to immediately send it to the IT department to get XP installed on it (removing W7). I thought it was ridiculous, but it had "Corporate Approval". I am not sure if Windows 8 has the same legacy/compatibility support as Windows 7, but I imagine it would. This is why it bugs me so much to see it still with a (as per your post) 40% share.
I am one of the users who is waiting to upgrade to Windows 8, and may in fact wait until my next computer. So I am guilty of hanging around with Windows 7 for now.
As a former Microsoft employee since the days of B.XP. (before XP) through Win7, I have seen first-hand how MS releases (client) OSes. Without getting into too much detail or timelines, the general pattern follows this:
-release decent great OS
-either  follow-up too soon with poorly-thought-out or bug-ridden OS, or  follow up after a proper length of time with new features folks aren't ready for or don't need or that just plain don't work, or rarely  follow up with another decent/great OS.
-release decent/great OS
-lather, rinse, repeat
All in my opinion, of course:
Win3.1 - decent
Win95 - game-changing, yet very poor at first (decent after OSR2.5)
Win98 - decent, great-for-the-time after Win98 Second Edition
WinME - Made a top-25 list of worst tech inventions of all-time
WinXP - great, esp after SP2
Vista - ugh.
Win7 - great
Win8 - ...not impressed...
I honestly think Win8 is a known-entity in that it gets the technology they want out there, priming users for the next OS that will "suck less". I doubt it's meant to be a "great" OS.
"But that's just my opinion; I could be wrong." ;)
Windows 8 is a radical change, but slowly people will get used to it. I have no doubt W8 will be refined as time is moved on, and at that time I will be willing to jump in.
I refuse to use the Metro crap though.