Talking tech since 2003

Month after month, we tech writers like to discuss the gains Microsoft is making with Windows 8 (and Windows 8.1) in terms of its overall market share. It’s kind of like documenting each developmental stage of a baby as it grows into toddler-hood. We marvel at its incremental growth, writing headlines about 0 8.1 “doubled its market share in October,” when, in truth, it still holds but a fraction of the overall OS market. That’s why today’s news—that Hewlett-Packard is running a promotion to push the sale of Windows 7 PCs—is surely not going to make Microsoft happy.

If you direct your browser over to HP’s website, you’ll see that it’s making a big push for selling new PCs outfitted with Windows 7, the operating system that Microsoft more or less left in the dust back in 2012 with the release of the touch-optimized Windows 8.

While the $150 discount for Windows 7 PCs would seem to indicate that the company is simply looking to move old stock, there may be more to it than that. HP’s tag-line for the promotion, “Back by popular demand,” is a none-too-subtle backhanded compliment of Microsoft’s operating systems, which all but explicitly points out that Windows 8 is not very popular at all.

Why go that route? It seems like a questionable decision on HP’s part to poke at Microsoft’s flagship OS—especially when as an OEM, its relationship with Microsoft is important to maintain. Could it be backlash against Microsoft for creating the Surface, a first-party piece of hardware that cuts into other OEMs’ device sales? Or simply a message to Microsoft that the less-than-stellar performance of Windows 8 so far is hurting the manufacturers who rely on it to move machines?

Personally I have mixed feelings about Windows 8—it does some things well, some things not so well—but overall, it’s not ideal to install it on a non-touch-enabled computer. So for that reason I can understand HP’s efforts to highlight its Windows 7 offerings and jab Microsoft at the same time. That said, Windows 8 won’t get any better (and it is getting better, even if it’s incrementally) if manufacturers don’t support and try to sell the platform.

So who owes whom more? Does Microsoft owe it to the OEMs to build a better OS? Or should the OEMs ‘kiss the ring’ and stay deferential to the company that makes the OS that makes their machines go? And will Microsoft figure out a way to make Windows 8.2 an OS more people actually want to use? Let’s hope for all our sakes that the last one actually comes true.

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